The Microbiome, What’s ALL the fuss?
The microbiome is a hot topic at the moment in science and natural medicine and for good reason.
Science finally recognises a connection between chronic disease and an imbalance of gut bacteria, which supports the term we often use in Natural Medicine that “disease starts in the gut”
Your gut microbiome is a community of microorganisms that live in the gut.
Microbial diversity is associated with good gut health. Gut microbiota plays important roles in maintaining intestinal homeostasis, including the metabolism of nutrients, synthesis of vitamin K and B12, metabolism of xenobiotics, and prevents pathogenic invasion and maintain barrier functions.
This can be achieved by consuming a diet rich in plant-based fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and ensuring the gut environment is desirable and stable. Fibre plays a fundamental role in restoring and maintaining the health of the gastrointestinal tract. While supplying softer, bulkier and regular stools, it can feed bacteria in the colon which plays a major role in keeping our gut wall intact and maintaining a very strong immune system for our body.
While most whole foods contain a combination of fibre categories, some contain more than others and can play different health-related roles in the body.
- (Soluble) Feeds good bacteria, slows the rate of digestion and absorption (fuller for longer, stabilises blood sugar), binds with cholesterol and toxins and excretes it out of the body.
- (Insoluble) Adds bulk and softness to stools, helps prevents constipation and haemorrhoids and the sweeping of toxins.
- (Resistant Starch) acts as a prebiotic by supplying food to beneficial bacteria.
Some food sources include:
- Soluble fibre – oats, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, pulses, bran, psyllium husks, chia seeds, flaxseeds
- Insoluble fibre – whole grains (wheat, cereal, bran), nuts, seeds, the skin of fruit & Veg
- Resistant starch – green bananas (banana flour), legumes, potatoes (cooked and cooled), potato starch, asparagus, pasta (cooked and cooled)
- Pre-biotic soluble fibre – asparagus, onions, garlic, green bananas, leek, chicory, Jerusalem artichoke
Microbiome science is still in its relative infancy and, considering the thousands of microbial species in the gut, characterising an ideal microbiome is not a straightforward task. Fortunately, research provides us with a few clues in terms of what we may want to aim for.
Dinan, T. G. & Cryan, J. F. The Microbiome-Gut-Brain Axis in Health and Disease. Gastroenterol Clin North Am 2017 Mar;46(1):77-89. Epub 2017 Jan 4
Eswaran, S., Muir, J., Chey, WD. (2013). Fiber and functional gastrointestinal disorders. Am J Gastroenterol, 108(5), p. 718-27.