Microbiome is a hot health and nutrition topic but it is by no means a fad. It is here to stay and due to its, relatively recently revealed impact on health, this is a topic that definitely scores high on the ‘knowledge is power’ scale. This section may feel like Biology 101 but the definition alone of the term ‘Microbiome’ helps to emphasize its significance in human health and disease prevention.
The human microbiome is the sum of all the genes of all the microbes (bacteria, bacteriophage, fungi, protozoa and viruses) that reside in the human body. Microbial cells outweigh human body cells by 10 to 1 and the number of genes present in the human microbiome exceeds the number of human host genes by 150 times. These microbes, therefore, are of great importance and require some attention. These microscopic organisms are essential to our survival and play a large role in the regulation of our health. Simply put, a healthy microbiome will help to keep us in good health.
A healthy microbiome is one that is diverse in nature, made up of many different species of bacteria. Interestingly enough most of the bacteria species present should feed from carbohydrate rather than protein. A minimal presence of pathogenic bacteria is also indicative of a healthy microbiome. The presence of a diverse, carbohydrate fermenting bacteria colony will prevent gut infections caused by pathogens.
Manipulating your Microbiome
Improving your health status may lie in the changing of your microbiome. The following tips will help you do so. If you have chronic gut issues, such as IBS, visit a dietitian for more specific advice and menu planning.
- Include a variety of foods in your diet for a more diverse microbiome
- Eat vegetables, fruits, legumes and wholegrains daily
- Include both soluble fibre (oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables and psyllium)
- and insoluble fibre (wheat bran, vegetables, and whole-grains) for adequate fermentation in the gut
- Include pre- and pro-biotic foods to support the growth of good bacteria
Pre- and Pro- biotics food sources:
Prebiotics: asparagus, artichokes, bananas, garlic, leeks, onions, soybeans and whole-wheat foods
- whole-wheat crackers and cereals,
- roasted vegetables with onions
- banana oats
Probiotics: fermented foods such as yoghurt, aged cheeses, kefir products, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh and soy beverages.
- smoothies with plain, low fat yoghurt
- serve stews and thick soups with sauerkraut
A note on protein
With the absence of fibre, high protein, low carbohydrate diets may lead to protein fermentation by gut bacteria in the colon. This leads to the production of toxins. In the absence of fibre, there is no mop-up effect of these toxins from good bacteria. These toxins may be linked to an increased risk of colon cancer.
Recipes for improving the health of your microbiome: