Building a Healthy Gut Microbiome

Sep 1, 2021 | Tara Schmidt | @taraschmidt | Comments (14)

Written by Rebecca Waletzko, Mayo Clinic Dietetic Intern 

What is the gut microbiome?

Our gastrointestinal tracts are made up of trillions of microorganisms which comprise our gut microbiome. These microorganisms can be generally classified as healthy or unhealthy. Gut health can be defined by normal composition of the microbiome, adequate digestion and absorption of food, the absence of gut illnesses, and an effective immune status. Emerging research is helping the medical world understand more about the gut microbiome, securing that we can alter our microbiomes by what we eat. 

 

Why is this important? 

When the gut microbiome is not balanced, disease risk is higher. A gut that is rich in healthy bacteria may help reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, and colon cancer.

 

How do I build a healthy gut microbiome? 

Foods that help create a healthy gut microbiome are prebiotics/fiber and probiotics/fermented foods. High fiber diets containing prebiotics and probiotics promote a healthy gut microbiome. Whereas diets high in fast food, sugar, processed foods, and excessive alcohol can decrease gut health.

 

Try to include these in your diet:

Fiber/Prebiotics: These are nondigestible substances that feed healthy gut bacteria.

  • Sources: fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains – such as artichoke, asparagus, bananas, barley, beans, berries, chicory root, flax, garlic, leafy greens, oatmeal, onion, rye, wheat.

Fermented Foods/Probiotics: These bacteria feed off of fiber/prebiotics and aid in digestion.

  • Sources: buttermilk, fermented vegetables, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, sourdough, tempeh, yogurt with live cultures.

 

Related Recipes:

6 Grain Hot Cereal

Oatmeal Pancakes

Roasted Asparagus and Wild Mushrooms

Interested in more newsfeed posts like this? Go to the Weight Management blog.

I was diagnosed first with IBS. Then lymphocytic colitis, then a progression into collagenous colitis. And last, I have had SIBO 3 times in the last 2 years. Not sure where it all has come from, but, for the most part I do ok. I have had times when I was sick, but most of the time I can deal with it. There are some foods that are good for the gut microbiome that aren't good for me. Over the years, I have worked out what foods work for me and I stick with those. I have refused the restrictive diets that some recommend. Just not a way I want to live and, so far, I haven't had to go that route. I am interested in what others do to mitigate their symptoms and what diets they follow.

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@paintbrushmom

I was diagnosed first with IBS. Then lymphocytic colitis, then a progression into collagenous colitis. And last, I have had SIBO 3 times in the last 2 years. Not sure where it all has come from, but, for the most part I do ok. I have had times when I was sick, but most of the time I can deal with it. There are some foods that are good for the gut microbiome that aren't good for me. Over the years, I have worked out what foods work for me and I stick with those. I have refused the restrictive diets that some recommend. Just not a way I want to live and, so far, I haven't had to go that route. I am interested in what others do to mitigate their symptoms and what diets they follow.

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I seem to alternate between the BRAT and FODMAP diets since Reclast did a number on my IBS. Bread, French or sour dough, white rice and fennel tea are my go-tos when it’s particularly bad. Nothing fatty, greasy or fried. Bananas are good too.
I wish you luck – it’s no fun!

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@paintbrushmom

I was diagnosed first with IBS. Then lymphocytic colitis, then a progression into collagenous colitis. And last, I have had SIBO 3 times in the last 2 years. Not sure where it all has come from, but, for the most part I do ok. I have had times when I was sick, but most of the time I can deal with it. There are some foods that are good for the gut microbiome that aren't good for me. Over the years, I have worked out what foods work for me and I stick with those. I have refused the restrictive diets that some recommend. Just not a way I want to live and, so far, I haven't had to go that route. I am interested in what others do to mitigate their symptoms and what diets they follow.

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Hi @paintbrushmom and welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. I'm glad that you joined this discussion and are interested in hearing how others are managing this disorder with an eating plan. I see that @dbmenger has already responded to your post.

If you would like to meet others who are dealing with this as well, here is a link to a discussion that you might find helpful and interesting, https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/lymphocitic-cholitis/ I would encourage you to read the posts in this discussion.

I would like to invite the following members of that group to discuss this with you, @kbiederbeck @stellawf @mjzd, and @astaingegerdm.

I am glad to hear that you have found the trigger foods that seem to cause you problems and are dealing with this problem in a satisfactory manner. What symptoms are the most troubling for you right now?

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@paintbrushmom

I was diagnosed first with IBS. Then lymphocytic colitis, then a progression into collagenous colitis. And last, I have had SIBO 3 times in the last 2 years. Not sure where it all has come from, but, for the most part I do ok. I have had times when I was sick, but most of the time I can deal with it. There are some foods that are good for the gut microbiome that aren't good for me. Over the years, I have worked out what foods work for me and I stick with those. I have refused the restrictive diets that some recommend. Just not a way I want to live and, so far, I haven't had to go that route. I am interested in what others do to mitigate their symptoms and what diets they follow.

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I'm happy to hear you are doing what works best for your body. With diagnoses that include the GI tract, it can be so difficult to navigate all the "don't eat this" lists that are out there. Unless it is truly unsafe for you to eat, we often recommend finding out what specific foods trigger symptoms (like you have done), as opposed to doing avoiding long lists of foods.

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@dbmenger

I seem to alternate between the BRAT and FODMAP diets since Reclast did a number on my IBS. Bread, French or sour dough, white rice and fennel tea are my go-tos when it’s particularly bad. Nothing fatty, greasy or fried. Bananas are good too.
I wish you luck – it’s no fun!

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FODMAP is a great choice to use short-term to specifically identify food triggers, so as to not become overly restrictive. Thanks for sharing your experience!

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I have heard that chicory root causes diarrhea.

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I had severe colitis, due to dehydration, four years ago and since have had severe stomach issues (severe belching, diarrhea, stomach pain and exhaustion) especially during the summer heat. I have never had a clear diagnosis, but my GI doctor first treated it as SIBO, and I followed that diet. When it did not subside, I took xifaxan which worked fairly well over three summers. This past summer, xifaxan was not helping and my Dr. suggests the problem may be fungal yeast overgrowth. Two courses of fluconazole has worked well and I am currently taking nystatin in order to stay well. I have studied, and follow, the FODMAP diet (Monash University) which seems to work fairly well except when the symptoms return.

REPLY
@paintbrushmom

I was diagnosed first with IBS. Then lymphocytic colitis, then a progression into collagenous colitis. And last, I have had SIBO 3 times in the last 2 years. Not sure where it all has come from, but, for the most part I do ok. I have had times when I was sick, but most of the time I can deal with it. There are some foods that are good for the gut microbiome that aren't good for me. Over the years, I have worked out what foods work for me and I stick with those. I have refused the restrictive diets that some recommend. Just not a way I want to live and, so far, I haven't had to go that route. I am interested in what others do to mitigate their symptoms and what diets they follow.

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It's true that some of the things on these lists aren't tolerated by my gut any longer. I have GERD, and would love to get my biome balanced, but after years of enjoying yoghurt and Kombucha several days a week, I found that they had become triggers for me causing rectal bleeding, UTI, and yeast infections. My doctor was insisting that I should eat yoghurt, and didn't believe me that it is causing these conditions, but I know by process of elimination and reintroduction that it is.

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@george7

I have heard that chicory root causes diarrhea.

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Chicory root fiber, especially when added to processed foods like bars or cereal, can cause gas, bloating, or other GI symptoms. This is even more likely when eaten in large amounts. We would advice patients to assess their tolerance, as this is not true for everyone. Here's even more on dietary fiber
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983

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@lindadreher

I had severe colitis, due to dehydration, four years ago and since have had severe stomach issues (severe belching, diarrhea, stomach pain and exhaustion) especially during the summer heat. I have never had a clear diagnosis, but my GI doctor first treated it as SIBO, and I followed that diet. When it did not subside, I took xifaxan which worked fairly well over three summers. This past summer, xifaxan was not helping and my Dr. suggests the problem may be fungal yeast overgrowth. Two courses of fluconazole has worked well and I am currently taking nystatin in order to stay well. I have studied, and follow, the FODMAP diet (Monash University) which seems to work fairly well except when the symptoms return.

Jump to this post

Wow, that sounds so tough. I'm sorry to hear about all of your gastrointestinal symptoms. I am glad to hear your most recent treatment is going better! A FODMAP diet can be helpful to help people identify their food triggers, though it can be overly restrictive if used long-term. Have you been able to reintroduce most of the FODMAP groups?

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