Building a Healthy Gut Microbiome
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.