Microbes In Your Gut
The microbes that have made your body their home are quite impressive, and most people are unaware of the magnitude of microbes that reside within them. One hundred trillion microbes is a tremendous amount, and let me better explain just how much this is. This is more than the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy and they're all abiding in you, creating you and it's time you understand what a miracle it is to be a human host for bacteria. We live in harmony with bacteria and fungi and trillions of organisms until we mess it up by pushing against them and killing them left and right with antibiotics, anti-bacterial disinfectants, chemicals, and an unhealthy diet creating an imbalance in our gut flora that works to keep us well each and every day. Understanding how this works is key to creating not only balance and harmony but making your body thrive like never before.
So how do we keep our trillions of bacteria happy? You feed them with lots of fiber; but first, you have to have the good strains of bacteria and that's where cultured foods come in. If you live in this day and age, most likely your gut flora has diminished due to chemicals and pesticides, drugs, highly processed foods, and overuse of antibiotics. Adding cultured foods is an excellent way to add the strains of bacteria you need. If you're unfamiliar with these special foods, I can teach you how to make them and use special cultures that can last your lifetime. See below.
Keeping The Mucosal Lining Intact
To feed these special strains of microbes you must feed them prebiotic fibers and then they grow and multiply. We all know fiber is good for digestive health, but new studies have revealed just how much gratitude we owe to roughage that we take for granted. Foods such as garlic, leeks, berries, fruits, nuts, seeds, and grains all contain lots of soluble and insoluble fibers that we can’t digest (and often receive no calories from); but our bacteria can digest them, and they thrive, grow, and multiply to make our inner ecosystem a powerful force for good in our lives. It makes us happy, healthy, calm and keeps us feeling fantastic. As the microbes grow from the fibrous food they work to help fight against intestinal infections and keep the mucosal lining intact which keeps out pathogens.
According to a study now published online in the journal Cell, fiber deprivation causes the gut microbes in animal studies to begin to eat the mucus lining of their gut.1 If this deprivation is allowed to continue for too long, it will cause a complete erosion of the gut and may allow invading bacteria to infect the colon wall. Researchers said this finding could have implications for possible uses of fiber against the effects of digestive tract disorders. In fact, leading researcher Eric Martens explained in a recent statement, "The lesson we're learning from studying the interaction of fiber, gut microbes, and the intestinal barrier system is that if you don't feed them, they can eat you!"
I saw this first hand with the effects of my daughter Maci many years ago when she went on an extremely low carb diet. She was a normal 16-year-old teenager and after a year or so on a diet that was extremely low carb with very little fiber she started having all kinds of stomach issues. Not that a low carb diet can't be healthy if you do it right, but you need a lot of fiber to keep these microbes happy and a lot of diverse kinds, too. Years of antibiotics had stripped her of all her good bacteria. Stress, certain foods she was eating, and a lack of nutrient-dense foods were destroying her gut lining. The lack of proper bacteria to turn her foods into vitamins and fatty acids was causing changes in her gut. There was nothing to protect her gut lining and she developed Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and multiple food allergies. Her microbes were in dire need of fiber in the form of prebiotic carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains to thrive and grow. She was essentially starving her microbes and was taking antibiotics. When your microbes don’t have any food, this can cause the pH in your gut to shift. This shift can favor the growth of less healthy, negative endotoxin-producing gut bacteria such as Bacteroides, and reduce the growth of positive bacteria that are “more healthy” for your gut. Jeff Leach from the American Gut project states, 2 “As pH shifts, prospects for opportunistic pathogens increase, as do opportunities for gram-negative bacteria like Bacteroides and Enterobacter. When you add this up – and a lot more shifts in the microbial ecology of the low-carb gut – you most certainly have a classic case of microbial dysbiosis – as the name implies, an imbalance. This dysbiosis can lead to issues associated with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, autoimmune disease, metabolic disorders, and so on.” This now makes sense to me since it was the perfect storm – she was a perfectly normal teenager with no food allergies, and suddenly she developed all kinds of symptoms and food allergies she’d never had before. Antibiotics had stripped her of all her good bacteria and left her defenseless. This, along with starving her microbiome with a lack of fiber to feed her microbes, was changing the world within, causing great pain and symptoms that changed the course of her life. We also found that just eliminating the offending foods will eliminate the pain to a degree. but then you need to fix the microbiome to re-establish a new inner microbiome. We fed her a cultured food at every meal and lots of prebiotic food, too. This regimen repaired the lining in her gut and her food allergies vanished. You can read more about this here. Healing From Food Allergies.
You can't expect all fibers to have the same functions, just like we don't expect all vitamins to have the same functions. Mixing different types of prebiotic fibers will ensure that they work together and will be as beneficial as possible. The real problem is we don't know we have a problem. Thirty-five percent of the people in this country think we are getting enough fiber. Men need about 35 grams and women need at least 25, but I think this is really low and we could do better with a lot more. We need lots of soluble fiber, which is what bacteria feed on. Insoluble fiber is good too for creating bulk for stools, but bacteria don't necessarily digest this type of fiber. Think of the foods as fertilizer for your microbes and then watch them do their thing while you go about your day. I love connecting with my body in this way. It helps me make better choices and understand this miraculous machine that creates everything I need from the foods I eat.
Here are just a few of my favorite prebiotic foods and supplements.
|Acacia, often called acacia gum, contains 86% prebiotic content. It is used as a food stabilizer, has a substantial amount of fiber, and is essential for strengthening the population of good bacteria in your gut. One place to find this prebiotic is in the supplement Prebio Plus. I often add it to my tea or stir it into salad dressing. It’s wonderful since it can be used hot or cold.|
|Asparagus contains 5% prebiotic content. It diminishes in prebiotics the more it is cooked, so eat it raw or lightly cooked.|
|Bananas contain 1% prebiotic content. Green bananas and plantains contain up to 3% prebiotic fiber, depending on how ripe they are. The greener they are, the more prebiotics they contain.|
|Berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, boysenberries) contain from 1% to 3% prebiotic content. Eating them raw is the best way to ensure you get lots of prebiotics.|
|Carrots, cabbages, and apples contain 1% to 2% prebiotic content. I love carrots and apples and use them daily in my juices and meals. I make tons of kraut with apples and carrots. This way, I get probiotics and prebiotics in one jar.|
|Chicory Root/Inulin is 64.6% prebiotic content. Inulin is made from chicory root and is a powerful prebiotic. The chicory root is roasted to reduce some of its potency as it can cause stomach problems if not taken with a probiotic. You can find inulin in Prebio Plus and sweet leaf stevia (the powder packages only). You can find chicory root in many coffee alternative drinks.|
|Dandelion Greens contain 24.3% prebiotic content. These are delicious as a salad and very enjoyable raw.|
|Raw Garlic contains 17.5% prebiotic content. As it ferments, garlic gets super bubbly and delicious, giving you both prebiotics and probiotics. When you cook garlic, it diminishes the amount of prebiotics as most of these fibers turn to sugars.|
|Seeds are also prebiotic, with flax seeds containing the most at 13% prebiotic content. Flaxseeds have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and modify the gut microbiota significantly in certain individuals with obesity.3|
|Fructo-oligosaccharides, or FOS, contain 35% prebiotic content. FOS is made from fruits and vegetables such as bananas, onions, chicory root, garlic, asparagus, jícama, and leeks. It's a subgroup of inulin. Grains such as wheat and barley also contain FOS. The Jerusalem artichoke and its relative yacon, together with the Blue Agave plant, have been found to have the highest concentrations of FOS found in cultured plants. You can also find FOS in Prebio Plus.|
|Honey contains 3% to 4 % prebiotic content. The interesting thing about honey is that it is also antibacterial as well as a prebiotic. This can confuse people: how does it kill bacteria and also help it grow? The antibacterial qualities protect the honey from harmful micro-organisms when it’s in the hive. Honey contains unique oligosaccharides that have an important prebiotic activity that works to increase the ever-important populations of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli in the body.|
|Jerusalem Artichokes are rich in prebiotic fiber with a 31.5% prebiotic content. It can be eaten lightly cooked to obtain the benefits of the super prebiotic fiber.|
|Leeks and Jicama contain 12% prebiotic content. These are some of my favorite veggies. I use leeks and jicama in so many dishes and fermented foods. I love the taste, especially in soups. Check out my Butternut Squash and Leek Soup in my Cultured Food for Health book, and check out jicama in my Flu Prevention Cultured Veggies.|
|Legumes, Rice, Potatoes, and Sweet Potatoes contain 2% to 7% prebiotic content. Legumes and potatoes also contain resistant starch which is another type of prebiotic fiber. Resistant starch does just what it says, it resists being digested in the small intestine until it enters the large intestine where it is fermented by bacteria. It stimulates the growth of good bacteria in the large intestine and boosts the production of short-chain fatty acids like butyrate. Butyrate has powerful anti-inflammatory effects that go beyond the gut. You want more butyrate in your system as it is a powerful aid in preventing cancers, promoting weight loss, and boosting the immune system.|
|Raw Onions contain 8.6% prebiotic content. Cooked onions still contain 5%; but like garlic, much of the fiber turns to sugar. Raw is better!|
|Nuts contain 1% to 6% prebiotic content. Even roasted nuts can contain prebiotic fibers.|
|Whole Grains, Oats, Amaranth, Quinoa, Millet, and Buckwheat all contain 2% to 5% prebiotic content. It’s most important to eat sprouted or soaked grains or to consume bread made with sourdough starters. These preparation methods help to unlock the nutrients by deactivating the phytic acid in grains that can wreak havoc on your gut and keep you from getting the vitamins and minerals. Oats have a lot of soluble fiber and so does amaranth, quinoa, millet, and buckwheat. These are especially helpful if you have problems with wheat.|
|Prebio Plus, Sweet Leaf Stevia, and Ecobloom all contain tons of prebiotics - up to 86% prebiotic fiber content. Prebio Plus has the most with three different prebiotics: inulin, acacia, and FOS. Sweet Leaf Stevia contains inulin as does Ecobloom. You can use these in all kinds of cultured foods. You can also add them to regular dishes by adding it to your coffee or tea or sprinkling it on salads and dressings. They’re all pretty powerful and a little goes a long way, so start out small when first using them. Combined with probiotic foods, you will feed the microbiome in your gut and allow it to grow and multiply. As with all prebiotics, you want to allow your body to adjust, and you want to avoid any undue gas as these fibers ferment and grow and change your inner eco-system.|
There are many more prebiotics - these are just some of the more important ones. Concentrate on feeding your microbes lots of healthy probiotic foods and prebiotic fibers in fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and grains and watch as your microbes take care of you from the inside out. Here are some of the probiotic foods that can make all the difference.
Listen To My Podcast
Find out how important it is to feed your microbes. If your trillions of microbes don’t get what they need, they can start to eat the mucosal lining of the gut, leading to leaky gut, IBS, and more. Find out how to keep them happy and fed!
- Brahe LK, et al. Dietary modulation of the gut microbiota - a randomized controlled trial in obese postmenopausal women. Br J Nutr. 2015 Jul 2:1-12. [Epub ahead of print]