Your digestive tract is a community of trillions of bugs that make up what is now called your gut ‘microbiome’. It has a huge influence on your metabolism, appetite and mood as well as the risk of developing conditions including allergies, diabetes (both type 1 and 2), chronic conditions like dementia and Parkinson’s disease; autoimmune disorders (like RA, MS); chronic fatigue and many other health issues.
These microbes mostly live in your lower intestine and outnumber all the other cells in your body by a factor of around 9:1 i.e. microbes are around 10 times more abundant in our body than human cells! The microbiome weighs slightly more than our brains and is nearly as vital – we wouldn’t survive long without our gut microbes.
Our diet, medications and lifestyle influences microbiome health and this article explains some strategies to keep it happy and our bodies healthy. This blog will give you some tips that are also mindful of carbohydrate content, hence are keto-friendly
- Eat more microbiota-nourishing, high-fibre foods – aim for 40+ different plant foods each week. This means varying the veggies, fruits, fibres, seeds and nuts you consume – not eating the same foods every day.
- Pick high-fibre vegetables e.g. artichokes (1/2 cup hearts = net carbs 2.8 carbs) leeks ( 50g = 6.6 carbs) onions (4 slices 24g = 0.7g) and garlic (3g = 1 carb) – these all contain high levels of inulin (a prebiotic fibre). Vegetables like lettuce have little fibre or nutrient value – choose dark coloured options instead, rocket and baby spinach.
- Polyphenols are antioxidants that act as fuel for microbes. Eat lots of coloured veggies and fruits (especially those in season), nuts, seeds, berries, olive oil, brassicas (like broccoli, cauliflower, kale), coffee and teas – especially green tea.
- Avoid snacking after dinner and start breakfast a little later to increase the interval between meals to give your gut a rest.
- Eat plenty of fermented foods containing live microbes. Good choices are:
- Unsweetened yoghurt like Vaalia yoghurt which contains several good species of bacteria (LGG, Bb12 and La5);
- Kefir (a sour milk drink with five times as many microbes as yoghurt) with carbs similar to yoghurt
- Raw milk cheeses like Roquefort (made from unpasteurised milk difficult to access in Australia due to stringent standards
- Sauerkraut & kimchi (a Korean type of sauerkraut made from garlic, cabbage and chili) Approx. 2.6 carbs per 55g
- Soybean-based products such as soy sauce, tempeh and natto.
- Raw cacao powder (organic best) – 1 tbsp = 4.1 carbs in smoothies/yoghurt or in warm milk
- There are some readily available low carb breads e.g Herman Brot is wholegrain with only 2.5 carbs, 11.5g of protein and 5.4g of fibre per slice See: https://hermanbrot.com.au/products/low-carb-bread/
- Aldi’s low carb bread (around $5 per loaf) containing 2.5g carbs per slice
- Helga’s lower carb bread contains around 25% less carbs. The good aspect of these are they are high in fibre and contain more protein than regular bread, but the downside is they contain gluten which can be inflammatory.
- Empower wraps contain 3 carbs per wrap and they are fairly small and again contain gluten, but can satiate the desire to have something akin to a wrap or pizza base.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose and saccharin. They disrupt the metabolism of microbes and reduce gut diversity
- Ditch processed foods too, as these also upset microbes’ metabolism. A 21-year-old ate McDonald’s for 10 days and his microbial diversity score (the number of different bugs) reduced by a massive 40%! See https://theconversation.com/your-gut-bacteria-dont-like-junk-food-even-if-you-do-41564
- A brilliant rice or pasta option is available from your local supermarket! Zero carbs, only 10 calories, made from a fibrous southeast asian plant called Konjac. Called Slendier pasta, Zero or Miracle noodles, they help you keep full, feed your microbiome and make you feel like you’re eating pasta or rice!
- Lactulose – 10ml daily- start slowly eg 2.5-5ml/day and reduce dose if bloating/flatulence worsens (available from Chemist but don’t use the dosage on label unless you’re constipated)
- Concentrated Turmeric assists not only inflammatory conditions but your microbiome too! Practitioner only products can be obtained from your health practitioner and include brands like Orthoplex Curcuminoid UltraPure, BioMedica CurcuForte or Mediherb Curcuma Active.
Avoid certain medications if and where possible
Antibiotics destroy good and bad microbes and it can take weeks to recover, so don’t take them unless you need them. Their use is also associated with obesity and allergies in animals. Even common medications like paracetamol, proton pump inhibitors (like Zantac) and antacids can interfere with microbes. Speak with your health professional for ways to address the underlying cause of your reflux, pain or recurrent infections so you won’t need to take the drugs.
- Minimise use of antibacterial products, hand washes and spray.
- Moderate exercise is beneficial
- In small quantities, alcohol has been shown to increase your gut diversity, but large amounts are harmful to your microbes and your health.
- Spend time in the garden and the countryside
- Living with animals improves diversity scores
Want to find out what your bacterial diversity and gut health is like?
You can test the health of your microbiome by sending a stool specimen to a Melbourne lab. For under $400 https://www.nutripath.com.au/product/complete-microbiome-mapping/ The panel is a comprehensive collection of bacterial, immune and digestive markers. It screens for pathogenic bacteria, commensal bacteria, opportunistic pathogens, fungi, viruses, and parasites.
For some more information on fibres see: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/4/1417/htm?fbclid=IwAR1ktR-gsIbdTVI7eWnGcU3U3S7JFSmG1gLJcclInfUIHhkUSK4q5rWBHIk
Written by Doreen Schwegler, Medical Scientist and Naturopath with over 30 years of experience helping people get back on track with their health and happiness. She is available for appointments in Ascot Vale, North Melbourne and Sydney
Book in for a complimentary in-person or online chat as to how I can assist you in your health journey – 9370 7070 or online