I promised to continue my October Newsletter article on the microbiome , your community of beneficial gut flora also called microbiota or probiotics, and tell you more about the prebiotics that feed it. It’s been a hectic winter but I’m getting back to this subject because it’s the most important thing you can do to create optimal health. Feed the beneficial probiotics in your gut and your health will thrive!
New studies are being published daily revealing how the microbiome controls everything from our mood to our immune system. Science is revealing what foods increase various strains of beneficial microbes and how the metabolites that they produce enhances our health.
Here’s the white elephant in the room that no one in the natural foods industry wants to talk about: taking probiotic supplements simply can’t replenish the microbiome community in your gut. What? Are probiotic supplements a waste of money? Let’s just say this: there is a much more effective way to increase the beneficial intestinal flora that your good health depends upon. That’s why it is so important to know what foods and prebiotic concentrates will increase your microbiome diversity for optimal health.
Healthy Microbiome = Diversity Of Microbes
That’s the formula for a healthy microbiome in a nutshell. The greater the diversity of the microbes in your gut, the healthier you are because each one has a different role to play and the more there are, the stronger the whole community is.
We see this in nature. Healthy ecosystems depend on biodiversity and when even small and seemingly insignificant members go missing, the whole ecosystem changes and eventually starts to fail. It’s why scientists are so concerned about the rapid species extinction that is ongoing via human alterations to the environment and the climate.
With over a thousand species of microbes in your gut and countless strains within each species, there is only one supplement that can truly increase the biodiversity of microbes in your gut. I warn you that it is unappetizing and unlikely that you’ll be taking this route unless you’re severely ill with a bacterial infection in your colon.
Sorry, but you’d have to take supplements of a healthy person’s poop. See? I told you it wasn’t pleasant and yet that is what saves people on the brink of death when the microbiome in their colon has collapsed. Why poop? Because it has the whole community of trillions of microbes in it, not just a couple of strains of a certain species or two.
Probiotic Supplements Just Aren’t Enough
I’m not trying to say that taking a probiotic is useless. But the question becomes, how do you know that you’re deficient in the particular strains that are in a given probiotic supplement? And what if you need many other microbes that aren’t available in supplement form? Or may not have even been studied yet? On top of that, how do you know that your genes are compatible with the probiotics that you’re ingesting?
We each have a signature microbial population that we inherit from our mothers during birth and nursing which are compatible with our genes. As we mature, we gain more from our exposure to microbes in our environment and via the foods we eat that either nourish or starve them. Keeping our microbial community in balance and in abundance is what makes us healthy with strong immune systems.
But many things work against our microbiome. Stress can alter it on a minute by minute basis. Antibiotics and prescription drugs can devastate sensitive species. Exposure to toxins in our environment including the agricultural chemicals on our food can make our intestines inhospitable to our microbiota.
Sure you can take a probiotic supplement with some lactobacillus and bifidus strains and they will probably do you some good. But the vast majority of the microbes you may need won’t be found in a supplement simply because they don’t survive when exposed to oxygen. No amount of refrigeration will keep them alive so no companies have commercialized them. They’re called Bacteroides and they are the genus associated with thinner people!
There’s only one way to ensure that your probiotic community, called the microbiome, will survive these assaults. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to do but you have to stay on top of it daily!
The One Way You Can Nourish Your Whole Microbiome
Eating the right foods as well as taking prebiotics, those soluble fibers that are digested and fermented by our microbes in our intestines, is the only way to truly increase the probiotics in your gut. It turns out that even though the population of various microbes may be diminished, they have a way of hiding out in our gut just waiting for the right foods to come along to replenish their population. Your job is to provide it for them.
Here are the foods to avoid:
- Sugar: Yes, sugar is once again the culprit. Scientific studies analyzing the DNA of intestinal microbes in a wide group of humans compared their microbiome to their diet which showed that people who eat a lot of sugar have a lower diversity of microbes in their gut. Less diversity equals poor health. So avoid sugar if you need to rebuild your microbiome!
- Refined carbohydrates: white flour, white rice, and other grains that have their bran removed. Sorry, but it is the whole grain with its bran intact that the microbiota love to eat. They digest what your small intestines can’t. They chow down on indigestible fiber in your colon and ferment it to make metabolites that are essential to good health. Avoid refined white flours and grains.
Here are the foods to increase:
- Soluble fiber in plant foods like the prebiotics, inulin and fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which I wrote about in great detail in my October blog. Check out my list of foods showing how to increase your intake of these important prebiotics.
- Foods rich in polyphenols: Your beneficial microbes love polyphenols which you may be more familiar with when they’re referred to as “antioxidants.” Think dark colored berries and vegetables, red wine, nuts, herbs, spices, tea and very dark chocolate. Eat lots of colors in your food and you’ll get a wide variety of polyphenols to keep your microbiota happy.
The Scoop on Prebiotic Supplements:
If you’re suffering from digestive disorders, you’ll benefit from concentrated prebiotics to really boost the population of the thousand some species of microbiota in your gut. I’ve been researching prebiotics extensively and I’ve found that there are a number of foods and supplements claiming to have prebiotics in them but they don’t have the science to back their claims.
Then there is the problem that inulin and FOS, which are well proven prebiotics, can cause gas when they are added to foods in higher quantities than are normally found in nature. Thus companies are looking for inexpensive alternatives and that’s why you need to look for real scientific studies in humans showing increases in specific populations of beneficial species of microbiota.
So what to take? My advice is to experiment with a variety of prebiotics to see how they affect your microbiome. Different prebiotics feed different probiotic species so I recommend trying more that one. You’ll know that the prebiotic is having a beneficial effect by watching your digestion and elimination. A good prebiotic over a few weeks time will improve your digestion. It will also make you poop more and that is a sign that you’ve increased your population of microbiota. They die daily and thus their bulk increases the volume of your poop!
You can also look for mood improvement because the right prebiotic will increase the microbiota species that relieve anxiety and depression. There is increasing science in actual human studies to back this up. We may all just be victims of our microbiome and how it’s thriving!
Here are two prebiotic supplements in the market whose science has really impressed me. What’s more, I’ve taken them both and felt the difference they make to my health so I hope you will too!
ISOThrive: This is a fermented concentrate of the prebiotic that you would eat in fermented foods like sauerkraut and pickles. Only you’d have to eat piles of fermented foods to get the same amount of MIMO (maltosyl-iso-malto-oligosaccharides) that you find in a single packet of ISOThrive. It tastes delicious and you only need one little packet every day. I simply cut open the packet and suck the nectar into my mouth. Why bother to adding it to your cereal or tea when it tastes great as-is? I’ve read the studies on this prebiotic and experienced the difference in my health. My recommendation is to order a 2 month supply and give it a try!
Bimuno: This prebiotic is found in mother’s milk and is called B-GOS (galacto-oligosaccharides). It has been developed by a UK company, Clasado, and it is just coming to the US so you’ll have to buy it on Amazon. They have lots of university studies showing its effect on the microbiome that is very impressive including anxiety improvement. However, if you’re lactose-sensitive or vegan, this prebiotic may not be right for you.
Of course, I recommend drinking Teeccino and eating a bowl of TeeChia daily to increase your intake of the prebiotics, inulin and beta-glucan. I’ll keep you posted on new products I’m developing that will make it delicious and easy to increase your intake of prebiotics for optimal health!