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Diet and your gut microbiome

A healthy gut microbiome protects our bodies and GI tract from infection, inflammation, and diseases.  Researchers have found that which bacteria thrive depends on what you eat.  These bacteria can change very quickly, within 24 hours for some.  This would be great news if we could identify exactly which bacteria were the most important. However, no precise way of eating that fits all.  We are all unique individuals with unique microbiomes!


So, what do we know?  The microbiome is very sensitive to changes in diet.  Research does suggest that there are some general guidelines that could help provide the best environment to protect the gut.  These guidelines may sound familiar as they represent an overall healthful way of eating.  Research studies have been conducted in the following areas and have found disturbance in the microbiota when not following these recommendations.  Therefore, you can create the best environment possible for your gut microbiome through the food you eat.  These general guidelines include

  • Eat mostly plants such as colorful fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. These provide much needed fiber and non-digestible carbohydrates.

  • Choose low fat animal proteins and plant proteins

  • Choose whole foods; limit processed foods

  • Limit artificial sweeteners, polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulose (CMC)

  • Choose unsaturated fats over saturated fats

  • Choose food over supplemental prebiotics and probiotics

Studies have shown that eating higher amounts of fiber (plants) leads to a greater microbial diversity and activity, producing short chain fatty acids (SCFAs).  These SCFAs include butyrate, propionate, and acetate.  Butyrate, in particular, helps keep the cells in our colon healthy.

When you eat lots of plants (fruits, vegetables, whole grains), you are eating different types of fiber.  This fiber is not broken down in the stomach and small intestine.  When it gets to the colon, it feeds the bacteria that produce SCFAs and protect the cells in your GI tract.


Being vegetarian is not a requirement for a healthy gut.  However, focusing on plant-based eating is recommended.  The balance of carbohydrates to protein is important as well as the type of food - whole vs processed.

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You are what you eat

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