The happy gut is a diverse microbiome

How interesting would it be to map out the diversity of bacteria in your gut? Your digestive system is made up of hundreds of millions of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other lesser known microbes. This whole package is known as the microbiome, and there is more of it than there is of us. If your gut isn't happy, then you now have even more information available to find out what is going on. Even if your gut is happy, maybe it could be even happier?

Scientists are now identifying that it is it diversity or the richness of these microbes, that is associated with vitality and well-being. It means we want lots of variety of microbes, which we get through eating a large variety of food. 

The science tells us that:

  • healthier people tend to have more gut diversity
  • more plant diversity leads to more gut diversity
  • you may be eating a healthy diet but if you have the same foods all the time, you're not getting the diversity of microbes

Some of the latest research comes from the scientific team lead by Professor Tim Spector, he leads the Map My Gut project and the Twins UK study. The Twins UK study has been running for many years and as part of the data capture, the twins provided stool samples. Analysis of the microbiome in these stools revealed that there were different types of gut bacteria associated with the obese, compared to the lean twin. Research such as this, has led to advancements in science and the ability for anyone of us to get our stool analysed. Simply put, there is a connection between body weight and the microbiome in the digestive system, as well as in other areas of well-being or disease.

This new technology uses gene sequencing; it analyses the genes of the bacteria in your digestive system and suggestions are made on certain foods or food groups that you can focus on. If you're low in bacteria 'A' then you could eat more of food 'B' for example.

The gene in each of these bacteria is a mini, but very powerful metabolic factory. They digest what we can't. Bacteria are involved in the production of vitamin K and the B vitamins. They also train our immune system and look after the membrane lining of the gut.

What can you do?

  • Start by writing down how many different foods you had today.
  • Eat a large variety of foods, aiming for at least 20 to 30 per day.
  • Embrace new cultures and shop in different places with different food cultures.
  • Make plant food the base of your diet, add to that good quality protein from animal or vegetable sources.
  • Add in herbs, spices, pulses and grains.
  • Avoid artificial sweeteners, the gut microbiome does not benefit from it.
  • Enjoy probiotic food such as natural yoghurts.
  • Enjoy prebiotic food such as green bananas, cold potatoes with resistant starch and Jerusalem artichokes.
  • Give your microbiome a rest by fasting, the simplest way is a 12 hour fast overnight.  Make your last piece of food 7pm and your earliest food the next morning at 7am.
  • Get tested!

Take these steps as quickly or as slowly as you need to and seek the advice of a registered nutritional therapist for personalised diet and testing advice.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Wokingham RG40 & Birmingham B29
Written by Joanne Hart, BSc (Hons), health & hart. Gut, energy, and sport specialist
Wokingham RG40 & Birmingham B29

Joanne Hart of health and hart is a degree level registered nutritional therapist (BSc (Hons)), yoga teacher and motivational coach. She works with professionals and athletes to help you as you're releasing you inner potential. By tailoring your nutrition, she helps you move towards optimum health and performance for life, work and sport.

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