Ask An Expert – What is the Gut Microbiome?

microbe

With recent media interest in the role ‘gut bugs’ play in health, many people are asking what actually are gut bugs and why are they so important?

The gut microbiome is made up of trillions of tiny microscopic organisms (and their genetic material which is like a little instruction booklet that exists inside all living things) that live in the part of your digestive system called the large intestine or colon. These little critters are not bad for us at all – in fact they offer many health benefits when they are living in balance with you, their host. These ‘gut bugs’ help digest foods that we cannot digest ourselves such as fibre and release beneficial chemicals called ‘metabolites’ that have been shown to have benefits all over the body such as reducing inflammation and enhancing immunity.

So what common questions do our experts get asked about the gut microbiome?

What is a healthy gut microbiome?

Everyone has their own unique gut microbiome. Think of it like a fingerprint where no two people are ever the same. Research shows us that DIVERSITY in the types of gut bugs we have is linked to good health. In other words, we want lots of different types of gut bugs that produce different substances (metabolites) that have positive health effects. So how do we get a diverse gut bug population? By eating a large variety of largely plant based foods that our bodies can’t digest! These foods are commonly known as ‘prebiotics’ and are food for our gut bugs. Different bugs like different foods so the greater the variety in your diet, the more diverse your gut bugs will become.

How do I know what gut bugs I have?

The gut microbiome can be tested by using a Microba Insight Sampling kit. Ask one of our dietitians to explain the process of getting your own personalised microbiome report. If this is suitable for you, your Inner Health Nutrition Dietitian will give you a kit to take home to take a non-invasive tiny sample of your poo which gets sent to a lab for analysis. Your dietitian will then talk you through your report and can discuss personalised strategies to enhance your gut health.    

How can I improve my gut bugs?

By eating a diverse range of foods! Think vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and wholegrains. If you always eat the same foods try switching varieties to feed your gut bugs. For example, if you always have porridge with oats and walnuts try barley and pistachios. If you always use whole wheat bread try rye. The key is not that any of the foods are ‘bad’ but that a range of foods is optimal. Choosing more whole real plant foods over highly refined foods will give your little bugs lots to eat as they are high in fibre – the part of plant foods that our bodies can’t digest.   

We would love to hear your questions about the gut microbiome. Keep an eye on our blog for more information about gut health, fibre and prebiotics.

If you are interested in further support or personalised microbiome testing, please get into contact with our Dietitian Taylor Vickery or join our Facebook group.  

Tell us what you think, by leaving us a comment, your feedback is important to us at Inner Health Nutrition.

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