There is a lot of talk about leaky gut, but what is the gut and what holds it all together? I want to give a quick overview of the gut and microbiome so you can better understand how things may fall apart.
“We are what we eat.” That is an old statement that seems to have been forgotten in this world of fake food. If you want to go even deeper, the statement, “we are what our bacteria eat,” is even more accurate.
Our gut is home to 500 species of bacteria and trillions of bugs that consume everything we put in our mouths. That means, the foods you eat has a direct impact on your microbiome influencing your health.
What is the Microbiome?
The microbiome is a community of bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa all kept in line with proper lifestyles (Diet, Rest, Exercise, Stress Management). Most diseases have been correlated to a less diverse microbiome. They also have a lower quantity of butyrate producing bacteria.
Butyric acid is produced when probiotics are consumed and broken down in the colon. Butyric acid is the preferred fuel for the cells that line the colon and regulates the environment, making it difficult for bad bacteria to live.
What are Prebiotics and Probiotics?
Prebiotics are the fiber-rich foods that probiotics use to grow. They work together and both pre- and probiotic foods need to be consumed regularly. I will discuss what foods contain both, later in the article.
Two of the main probiotic bacteria the most commonly discussed are Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. They have the largest influence of the gut bacteria community and are easily found in foods.
Foods that Influence the Microbiome
Protein- overall, protein consumption is found to be positively correlated with bacterial diversity. Both whey and pea proteins increase Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. This is great news for competitors and athletes taking protein supplementation.
Furthermore, pea protein is found to increase short chain fatty acids (SCFA). These are found to decrease inflammation and play a role in mucosal integrity (AKA preventing leaky gut). That means, if you are using a high quality pea protein with adequate amino acid content, you can heal your muscle and the gut with the same post-workout shake.
Fats- Fats impact the body differently, depending on the fat consumed. One study shows that, in mice, eating lard increases the bad bacteria versus eating fish derived fats. The study also shows that the lard fed mice have adipose tissue inflammation and reduced insulin sensitivity. In human terms, if the research translates, this could mean an increased chance for diabetes. The fish-oil fed mice have a better gut flora and inflammatory response.
Carbohydrates- There are two forms of carbohydrates: Digestible and non-digestible. Digestible carbohydrates are the starches and sugars. If you eat increased amounts of glucose, fructose and sucrose there could be an increase in Bifidobacteria. This could cause an unbalanced shift as Lactobacilli do not increase. This imbalance is called dysbiosis and basically means the gut is out of balance.
Non-digestible carbohydrates, also know as fiber, are considered a prebiotic food because they stimulate the growth of good gut bacteria. A diet low in fiber is linked to lower bacterial diversity. Conversely, a diet higher in fiber has been shown to increase Bifidobactera and Lactobacilli. Higher fiber intakes also reduce the pro-inflammatory markers IL-6 and insulin resistance. Lower fiber has consistently shown a decrease in SCFA which can also reduce the diversity in the gut.
Fermented Foods- Fiber is not the only positive factor influencing the gut. Fermented foods containing lactic acid bacteria has been shown to increase Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.
Only 7 Days to Great Health!
If you want to influence the gut naturally, changing your habits and diet is the best recommendation. Below is a list of prebiotic and probiotic foods to help you get started. The Standard American Diet full of sugar, fiberless carbs and empty-nutrient drinks is a great way to get an unhealthy gut and therefore be unhealthy. The good news is that you can easily turn this around in as little as 7 days! 7 days is all it takes to start changing the microbiome and helping you get back to good health.
If you’ve already done this and you are still having issues, then it’s time to schedule a free Discovery Session and figure out what foods are best for you and rule-out any underlying factors such as hormones, pathogens or detox issues.[table id=1 /]
Rich Jacobs is a Board Certified Integrative and Functional Nutrition Practitioner who specializes in resolving gut, insomnia, low libido, fatigue and fat issues. He uses a holistic approach and functional lab work to identify root causes such as hormone imbalances or gut pathogens that could be impacting your health.