Gut Microbiota for Health Conference Update 2019 – Post Series 5
We’re on the FINAL week of the Gut Microbiota for Health conference update – I covered 5 different topics below – but of course saved the BEST for last – how do you actually take care of your gut microbiota?
- The low FODMAP diet
- Personalized nutrition
- Taking care of the gut microbiota (today!)
How Can YOU take care of your gut microbiota?
You and your gut microbiota have a commensal relationship. You do things for it, and it does things for you. But how do we take care of it?
It’s actually quite simple. You don’t need fancy pills potions, probiotics or anything of the sort. It’s actually getting back to nutrition basics.
Diet is the most impactful, simple way to manipulate the gut microbiota.
While different studies have looked into different diets impact on the microbiota, in the end it comes down to three simple things.
Is your diet varied? Do you consume a wide array of plants in different colours? Research from the Citizen Science Project found that those individuals who eat 30 different plant-based foods a week have the greatest microbial diversity – a potential marker of a healthy gut microbiota. I like to say your bacteria are like ‘picky eaters’ different bacteria like to snack on different fibres, and we want to feed them all, so they don’t go extinct!
This can be HARD. I think what’s important to take away from this study is, week over week, do you get variety?
For example one week you may have apples in your house, and have them daily whereas the next week you may have oranges.
PRO DIETITIAN TIP
Go for weekly variety! I love leftovers – and that’s OK. Try to rotate through as many colours on a weekly basis as you can – choosing 2 different vegetables at lunches & suppers daily, 2-3 different types of fruits a week, and including plant based proteins!
Hand in hand with plant variety comes fibre. Our current health recommendations suggest 25-38 grams per day is needed, with the average North American getting only 14 grams. Even with those recommendations – we may actually need MORE to support the healthiest microbiota possible. We don’t have a number yet, but in comparison – our ancestors ate over 150 grams per day. With the decline in fibre, has come the likely extinction of species and communities of bacteria that probably have an impact on immune development and function. It’s actually postulated that these changes may drive many of the 21st century diseases we see on the rise, such as allergies, and inflammatory bowel disease.
PRO DIETITIAN TIP
Aim for 25-38 grams of fibre per day through food sources, and if needed – talk with your doctor or dietitian about if a fibre supplement is right for you.
When I say consistency – I mean – do you consistently eat enough fibre and variety on a regular basis? It appears that while diet changes rapidly change the composition of the gut microbiota, it’s the LONG-TERM changes that count in maintaining health, immune function, the intestinal barrier, managing inflammation, and more.
Short term interventions don’t appear to have as big of an impact as we would like – but long-term habits looking at populations appear to be associated with reduced disease risk.
Bottom line: be consistent with including fibre and variety! If you’re not sure how that should look for you – work with one of our gut health dietitians on a long-term plan.
Time and time again, research is showing long term dietary habits, and getting back to the basics is KEY in maintaining gut health and preventing chronic disease.
My big question is: are we too late? As a society, is the bacteria in our gut meant to protect us already extinct? What does this mean for future generations? While these are big and scary questions – I’m SO confident in the amazing work researchers are doing to assess interventions and shape health and disease through the gut microbiota.
Stay tuned, as I will be doing more posts on specific studies, and what it means for human health! In the meantime, if you’re looking to take care of those gut bugs – work with a dietitian specialized in gut health at Ignite Nutrition.
McDonald, D., Hyde, E., Debelius, J. W., Morton, J. T., Gonzalez, A., Ackermann, G., … & Goldasich, L. D. (2018). American gut: an open platform for citizen science microbiome research. mSystems, 3(3), e00031-18.