At Nua Fertility we are passionate about the importance of the gut microbiome for our whole body health and our reproductive health. The gut microbiome, the population of GOOD bacteria that populate our intestines (and other parts of our body too), doesn’t just help digestive function, they support immune balance, reduce inflammation, promote hormone balance, and support mood and blood sugar balance. Our key message is that if you look after the health of your gut microbiome, it will look after the health of the rest of your body. Using a quality probiotic supplement such as Nuabiome for Women and Men is an obvious way to promote a healthy gut microbiome, but what role does our diet have in supporting the beneficial effects of a probiotic supplement?
What not to do
It’s important to understand which eating habits and foods may have a negative impact on the gut microbiome because these negative habits can easily negate and cancel out any beneficial impact we may experience when using a probiotic supplement. Certain foods should be avoided because they have been shown to kill off some of these good bacteria, these include:
- Chlorine in tap water
- Emulsifiers in processed food
- Artificial sweeteners
- Antibiotics in our food chain
- Too much sugar
Chlorine in tap water does a really excellent job at killing harmful bacteria in our water supply, regular consumption of chlorinated tap water can reduce the number and diversity of our gut microbiome. It’s best to filter or boil tap water before drinking it or choose mineral water from glass bottles.
Emulsifiers are commonly added to processed foods as they extend their shelf life and you will find them in products including chocolate bars, ice cream, and mayonnaise. We know that emulsifiers have a strong negative impact on the gut microbiome leading to an increase in inflammation in the gut. So keep your consumption of processed foods to a minimum.
Avoiding processed foods will also help you avoid the consumption of artificial sweeteners. Far from being a harmless, calorie-free way to sweeten foods, these artificial sweeteners can disturb a healthy microbiome in a similar way to emulsifiers and can lead to poor blood sugar balance as a result. So diet soft drinks have got to go if you’re aiming for a healthy population of good bacteria.
Did you know that the agricultural industry purchases more antibiotics than the pharmaceutical industry and livestock farmers often feed animals antibiotics every day to prevent infection? Antibiotics kill infection-causing bacteria and they can also kill off the good bacteria in our guts. Even if you haven’t been prescribed an antibiotic by your doctor in many years you may be exposed to small doses of antibiotics through the food you buy, especially from meat and dairy products. Intensively reared meat, especially chicken, is most likely to be a source of antibiotics so it is best to source organic meat or free-range meat from farm shops and organic dairy products.
Eating too much sugar is bad news for the balance of bacteria in our guts because sugar promotes the proliferation of negative bacteria and yeasts. The microbiome is a mix of beneficial bacteria, negative bacteria, and yeasts, and eating too much sugar can push this out of balance leading to a state called dysbiosis where negative bacteria and yeasts outnumber the beneficial bacteria. So if you add sugar to your tea or coffee or have a sweet snack every day it is important to cut back to maintain a healthy microbiome.
However, it’s not all bad news because we know of a lot of dietary habits and foods that can promote the proliferation of good bacteria, so following these dietary guidelines can, together with probiotic supplementation, help us achieve and maintain healthy gut microbiomes.
Eat more fibre
We know that fibre is good news for our digestive system and one reason fibre keeps us regular is because it is the preferred food of our gut bacteria. Soluble fibre, the fibre found in oats, beans, and lentils, and starchy vegetables feed our good bacteria encouraging them to proliferate and they convert this fibre into beneficial anti-inflammatory substances called Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs). So starting the day with an oat-based breakfast and including a portion of beans or lentils into your diet every day will help keep your gut bacteria healthy. A specific type of fibre called inulin is known to really encourage the gut microbiome to thrive and inulin can be found in garlic, onions, leeks, artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, bananas, and barley. You can purchase inulin in powder form to add to hot drinks or smoothies if you want to give your gut an additional boost.
Eat more MACs
MACs is a shorthand term for ‘microbiota accessible carbohydrates’ and these are a form of carbohydrate present in food that is resistant to digestion by the human digestive system but which are digestible by our gut microbiome. Eating MACs will help to keep our gut microbiome healthy. MACs can be found in green bananas or plantain and mushrooms, and cooking and then cooling pasta, potatoes, and rice results in the development of MACs.
Eat a Variety of Plants
By far the most important dietary factor that has been proven to result in a healthy gut microbiome is eating a variety of different plant foods, at least 30 different plant foods a week. So it doesn’t matter if you are a meat-eater, vegetarian or vegan, it’s important that you enjoy a diverse range of plant foods. It might appear difficult to eat so many different plants every week, but remember, plant foods don’t just include fruit and vegetables but beans and lentils, spices, herbs, nuts, and seeds, even olive oil, coffee, tea, and herbal teas count.
Focus on Polyphenol-rich foods
Polyphenols are compounds found in plants that give them their bright colour and they are found in berries, and all brightly coloured fruit and vegetables. You’ll also find them in extra virgin olive oil, dark chocolate, and spices. Our gut bacteria love polyphenols and eating a diet rich in polyphenols will look after your microbiome. Interestingly polyphenols don’t just look after our gut microbiome, they are anti-inflammatory and promote egg and sperm quality, so a polyphenol-rich diet is key when you’re trying to conceive.
Try Fermented foods
Fermented foods are very trendy and popular at the moment and this isn’t just a food fad, it is really the reintroduction of traditional eating habits. Fermented foods are sometimes called living foods because they are packed full of living gut microbes that then populate our guts once consumed so supporting a healthy and diverse microbiome. Remember the 4 Ks of fermented foods:
Kraut (sauerkraut and pickles)
Kombucha (fermented green tea)
Kefir (fermented yogurt drink)
Kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage)
Aim to include at least one fermented food into your diet every day. Other options include live natural yogurt, Apple Cider Vinegar, and Miso paste.
Cheese and wine
Good news, if you’re skipping dessert because you are trying to cut back on your sugar intake you can order a cheese board and a glass of red wine after a meal as an alternative that will actually support your gut microbiome. Cheese made with raw or unpasteurised milk (such as gruyere, camembert, brie, Comte, and parmesan) helps our gut microbiome to proliferate and people who ate more unpasteurised dairy products had healthy gut microbiomes. A university in Italy found that a beneficial bacteria found in parmesan cheese transfers to the human gut when parmesan is consumed.
Red wine is the perfect accompaniment to a cheese board and regular consumption of red wine has been shown to enhance the diversity of the gut microbiome, whereas drinking white wine and other types of alcohol do not have the same beneficial impact.
NB: while it is fine to eat unpasteurised cheese when trying to conceive it is not recommended for consumption during pregnancy.
DON’T avoid Coffee
Good news if you can’t live without your morning cup of coffee, regular consumption of coffee has a beneficial impact on the diversity and health of the gut microbiome. Coffee does come from a bean after all, and we know that coffee is a source of soluble fibre that our gut bacteria can feed off. Interestingly a cup of instant coffee provides the most fibre , about 1.8g in a cup, an espresso 1.5g, and a filter coffee 1.1g.
Fast for 12 hours overnight
Sometimes NOT eating is the best thing we can do for our gut microbiome. Aim to limit snacking during the day and fast for at least 12 hours overnight. Giving our gut a break from the food actually allows our gut bacteria to work at cleaning up the gut wall, keeping it healthy. This has an overall beneficial effect on our gut and the gut microbiome.
So by following a few of these rules, eating more of the right foods and cutting out those foods that might negatively impact these good bacteria you will get the most out of your probiotic supplement and help maintain that healthy gut microbiome.
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