What Is the Microbiome Diet and Is It Healthy?

by Raychel Agramon, RN, MPM, March 09, 2020

microbiome diet

The microbiome is the collective term to denote all the bacteria, yeasts, and fungi that live on your body. Trillions of these organisms can be found inside your gut, as well most areas of the skin. They play a vital role in enhancing your immunity, so you are better equipped to fight infection-causing germs. They can also help reduce inflammation, which is vital in the management of inflammatory bowel diseases, acne, and eczema. 

When the microbiome diet is disturbed – say, if you are not eating well or if you are taking antibiotics that kill both good and bad bacteria – a variety of diseases may develop. Such an imbalance does not only affect your gut and your skin, but it can also wreak havoc on your mind, mouth, and genitals as well. 

With that being said, the best way to keep your microbiome at optimum health is to keep them well-fed. But remember, it’s not a simple case of feeding them anything – for they can only flourish when you eat foods that are rich in prebiotics.

microbiome diet

What are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics are compounds – special plant fibers, to be exact – that serve as food to the body’s resident microorganisms. When the prebiotics are digested by bacteria, fungi, and other beneficial microorganisms, health-promoting compounds such as short-chain fatty acids are produced. The result? Better digestion, enhanced immunity, and clearer skin, to name a few. 

Prebiotics and Fiber

Most people use prebiotics and fiber interchangeably. But according to the International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics, they have subtle differences. To determine their differences, we have to look at fiber closely.

Dietary fibers comprise of plant-based carbohydrates that cannot be digested in the small intestine. As a result, it passes through the large intestine, the colon, and out of the body, removing toxins and other harmful substances from the system.

More than just cleansing your body, fiber can also help lower blood sugar, as well as blood cholesterol levels. 

There are two types of fiber, namely:

  • Soluble. This type of fiber can be dissolved in water. As such it helps manage the levels of sugar and cholesterol in the body. Good sources of soluble fiber include beans, nut, lentils, oatmeal, blueberries, and apples. 
  • Insoluble. As the name suggests, this type of fiber cannot be dissolved in water. As a result, it can help propel digestion byproducts through the gut, so wastes are removed from the body easily. Tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, legumes, brown rice, whole-wheat bread, and wheat are just some of the many sources of insoluble fiber.

Related articles about: Probiotics For Skin Care

microbiome diet

With that being said, it is important to know that fiber is the best source of prebiotics, specifically the soluble ones. The most common prebiotics that can be obtained from the said sources are:

  • Fructans. According to an Ohio State University dietitian, Fructans is a type of prebiotic that does more than just feed the gut microbiome. This source can help boost immunity, apart from helping lower sugar and cholesterol levels in the body.
  • Galacto-Oligosaccharides. An Iranian study has shown that this type of prebiotic can stimulate the growth of probiotics such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. 
  • Resistant Starch. This prebiotic, which cannot be easily digested in the gut, can help in the production of butyrate. The said substance is highly beneficial and brings about positive effects on one’s gut and immunity. 
  • Glucose-Derived Oligosaccharides. This prebiotic source is rich in glucan and is said to help improve Bifidobacterial growth in the gut. 

There’s also a non-carbohydrate form of oligosaccharide, the example of which is the cocoa-derived flavanol. A British study has shown that such may help improve the growth of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria in the gut. 

microbiome diet

Top 10 Foods for Your Microbiome Diet

With the many benefits associated with prebiotics, you must eat foods that are high in fibrous sources. Here are the top 10 prebiotic foods for your microbiome: 

microbiome diet

Foods that are Bad for Your Microbiome 

If there are good food sources for the microbiome diet, there are some that can disrupt the balance of bacteria – either in the gut or the skin. If you want to keep your bacteria and yeasts at the top of their game, then make sure to avoid these foods that are bad for your microbiome:

  • Animal Protein
  • Protein can help build and repair tissues. However, consuming those derived from animal sources may have bad effects on the microbiome. A study has shown that animal protein may lead to an increase in the number of bad bacteria, such as Alistipes, Bacteroides, and Bilophila. Such microbes are held responsible for the development of gut inflammation and colorectal cancer.

    Not all protein sources are bad though. Vegetarian sources, such as whey or pea, may help promote the growth of probiotics in the gut, according to a Polish study

  • FODMAP food sources
  • FODMAP is short for foods containing fermentable oligosaccharide, disaccharide, monosaccharide polyols. Found in processed food and condiments, FODMAP sources can exacerbate inflammatory bowel conditions.

  • Antibiotic-rich sources
  • Poultry and meat may be treated with antibiotics to prevent infection amongst the livestock. When this reaches your gut, it can kill the good bacteria in your microbiome – as well as foster the growth of the harmful ones. 

  • Fried foods
  • Fried foods, while delicious, may upset your gut microbiome. For one, they are harder to digest, resulting in symptoms such as gas, diarrhea, or stomach pain. Secondly, fried foods make the gut more favorable to bad germs – leading to the disruption of the gut flora.

    microbiome diet

    Your gut and skin microbiome may help you maintain good health – and an even better appearance. With that being said, it is important that you eat the top 10 foods to improve gut microbiome – and avoid those that can disrupt your microbiota.