Dieting for my gut?

Thanks to: ABC Health & Wellbeing and Life Matters

How does your diet affect your gut bacteria?


So how does your diet affect your gut bacteria? Are there certain foods you should eat and others you should avoid to keep your gut bacteria healthy?

That’s because our gut microbiome (or combination of gut bacteria), apart from aiding digestion, is closely linked to our immune system. It’s thought to play a role in conditions like Parkinson’s diseases, heart disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, autism, asthma, allergies, arthritis, depression and diabetes.

Our gut bacteria help to produce micronutrients (like vitamins and antioxidants) from the food we eat, as well as break down macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) to ease digestion.

Your gut microbiome is sensitive to environmental exposures (beginning with the bacteria passed on from your mother at birth) and influenced by genetic factors. This is resolved by Probiotics and prebiotics

The molecular nutritionist said the modern Western diet lacked a great deal of variety, which could lead to a very low diversity of gut bacteria amongst its populations. Encouraging diversity in foods eaten is important.

But before you head to the chemist looking for probiotic supplements, these normally only contain a single propriety strain of bacteria.

You need your prebiotics to go with your probiotics, or there’s not much point putting them in there to start with,” Dr Beckett said.

So a high-fibre diet and fermented foods are in. But what is out? Well, too much fat and sugar for starters.

High fat changes the balance of the carbohydrate digesting bacteria, so you become less good at digesting carbohydrates and breaking down energy with your bacteria.

Diets containing too much meat are also a potential issue, she said, because they’re likely to be “high in fat” and can often mean the displacement of fruit and vegetables.

The same goes for alcohol — too much of it can induce dysbiosis (a microbial imbalance).

Taking antibiotics often, or for a long period of time, can upset the balance of microbes in your gut.

Having a healthy balance of gut bacteria relies on having a balanced immune system that’s able to destroy bad bacteria but keep good bacteria in check.

If we disrupt our normal bacteria through diet, environment exposures or antibiotics, then we can disrupt complex signalling pathways,” she said.

Good bacteria are necessary for good health — and to protect us from bad bacteria.