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FertilityFor You

How to eat to Feed your Gut Microbiome by Sarah Trimble

By June 24, 2022No Comments

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.

References

Bokulich NA, Blaser MJ. A bitter aftertaste: unintended effects of artificial sweeteners on the gut microbiome. Cell Metab. 2014 Nov 4;20(5):701-703. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2014.10.012. Epub 2014 Nov 4. PMID: 25440050; PMCID: PMC4494042.

Butler MI, Bastiaanssen TFS, Long-Smith C, et al. Recipe for a Healthy Gut: Intake of Unpasteurised Milk Is Associated with Increased Lactobacillus Abundance in the Human Gut Microbiome. Nutrients. 2020;12(5):1468. Published 2020 May 19. doi:10.3390/nu12051468

González S, Salazar N, Ruiz-Saavedra S, Gómez-Martín M, de Los Reyes-Gavilán CG, Gueimonde M. Long-Term Coffee Consumption is Associated with Fecal Microbial Composition in Humans. Nutrients. 2020;12(5):1287. Published 2020 May 1. doi:10.3390/nu12051287

Kim, C. Microbiota or short-chain fatty acids: which regulates diabetes?. Cell Mol Immunol 15, 88–91 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/cmi.2017.57

Kumar Singh A, Cabral C, Kumar R, et al. Beneficial Effects of Dietary Polyphenols on Gut Microbiota and Strategies to Improve Delivery Efficiency. Nutrients. 2019;11(9):2216. Published 2019 Sep 13. doi:10.3390/nu11092216

Manyi-Loh, Christy et al. “Antibiotic Use in Agriculture and Its Consequential Resistance in Environmental Sources: Potential Public Health Implications.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 23,4 795. 30 Mar. 2018, doi:10.3390/molecules23040795

Milani, C., Duranti, S., Napoli, S. et al. Colonization of the human gut by bovine bacteria present in Parmesan cheese. Nat Commun 10, 1286 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-09303-w

Nathan, Aishwarya. Effect of chlorine water consumption on phenotypic and microbiome development. Retrieved from https://doi.org/doi:10.7282/t3-a9s4-kp69

Naimi, S., Viennois, E., Gewirtz, A.T. et al. Direct impact of commonly used dietary emulsifiers on human gut microbiota. Microbiome 9, 66 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40168-020-00996-6

Satokari R. (2020). High Intake of Sugar and the Balance between Pro- and Anti-Inflammatory Gut Bacteria. Nutrients12(5), 1348. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12051348

 

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Amy Martin

Marketing Director

Amy is a high achieving individual with a number of marketing awards under her belt, including Young Digital Business Person of the Year 2019. She is a big believer in digital marketing and an expert in executing personalised targeted campaigns. Amy strives to learn from data and campaigns that show return on investment.

Robert Gordon

Managing Director, Gordons Chemists

 

Robert Gordon, director at Gordons Chemist's. Gordons Chemists is a chain of more than 60 pharmacies, located in NI and Scotland. Gordons Chemists is Northern Ireland's largest independent pharmacy chain.

Dr. Debbie Collins

MBBchBAO MRCGP

 

Dr. Debbie Collins MBBchBAO MRCGP, a practicing GP and partner in Belfast. She has a passion for patient education and advocacy. Her special interests are Women's Health and Fertility

Sarah Trimble

Nutritional Therapist

 

Sarah Trimble - a nutritional therapist with a passion for good food instead of fad diets. Sarah has a particular Interest in using the power of nutrition to support hormonal imbalances and reproductive health.

Barbara Scott

Director, Seren Natural Fertility
Chair, Association of Reproductive Reflexologists

 

Barbara Scott is Chair of The Association of Reproductive Reflexologists, founder of Seren Natural Fertility and author of Reflexology for Fertility. In 2017, she was awarded ‘Complementary Therapist of the Year’ by the Federation of Holistic Therapists and has been nominated for several awards within the field of complementary therapy. In 2019 she was awarded the Innovation in Reflexology Award by the Association of Reflexologists.

Barbara speaks and lectures globally on her integrative approach to supporting couples having difficulties conceiving. She has spoken at many of the Fertility Shows and Fertility Fest. Alongside her own busy clinics, she also trains practitioners in providing this integrative, approach to fertility and reproductive healthcare and well-being. The ARR (Association of Reproductive Reflexologists) has trained practitioners globally, from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Europe, and most areas of the UK.

Her expertise and passion is in advocating a patient-centred and integrative approach to supporting both men and women on their journey to parenthood.

Cindy Charles

Fertility coach and Founder of Fertilelife

 

Cindy Charles- Fertility coach and Founder of Fertilelife. Cindy is a committed advocate of social and personal development. Her own life experiences inspired her fertility support services. Cindy has worked with the Fertility Network UK, and has had the privilege to work as a resident Fertility Coach for the London Women's Clinic on Harley Street. Cindy believes in the importance of nurturing our own fertility.

Dr. Lyuda Shkrobot

MD, MSc Gynecologist, Fertility specialist at unq.life fertility clinic

 

Dr Lyuda has a special interest in reproductive immunology. Dr Shkrobot assisted in establishing the first European Donor Egg programme at Sims, coordinating and liaising with Intersono Clinic in Ukraine Advisors. She is passionate about patient-centred, results-driven care.

Lisa Corcoran

Business Development Executive

 

Lisa has 15 years of commercial business experience. She has proven her capabilities in Investment Property Sales and, Management & Business Development for Technology companies that have provided her with an understanding of different customer needs across several sectors. Lisa appreciates the value of customer education and relationship building in long-lasting partnerships.

Aoibheann Murphy

Chief Financial Officer

 

Having trained with PWC, Aoibheann qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1997. She subsequently spent eight years working in industry, gaining invaluable experience in many areas In 2005 Aoibheann became MD of Pangur Consulting, providing professional expertise to a broad client base. She is looking forward to the new challenge of Nua Fertility.
 

Share a little about yourself—the things we wouldn’t learn from simply reading your professional bio.

 

What was your journey to parenthood like?

Right craic!
 

Do you prefer podcasts or books? And of the one that you prefer, what is a show or title that you recommend?

I love sport…any sport…and the outdoors. Living in the Barrow valley I get to enjoy swimming and kayaking in the Barrow and exploring the Blackstairs mountains. Since I hung up my soccer boots (the body just couldn’t take it anymore!), I’ve been cycling with my lovely friends in Mount Leinster Wheelers and was chuffed to have completed the Ironman 70.3 triathlon event in Dublin in 2019!
I’m an avid reader…books beat podcasts hands down!...although recently I’ve dabbled with audio books through the library app Borrow Box. “A Little Life” left its mark on me. A harrowing story, definitely not for the faint hearted.
 

If there was just one thing you could impart on women on their journey to parenthood, what would it be?

Don’t be consumed by the roles in your life – parent, partner, employee etc. Parenthood, be it getting there or going through it, will have its tough times. Cherishing yourself as an individual and making time for yourself can help you through those times….it’s good to be a bit selfish!!

Mark Mullins

Director of Sales

 

What was your journey to parenthood like?

To be honest it was very difficult. At the beginning we thought that when we decided that we wanted to start a family Deborah would fall pregnant shortly afterwards like many of her friends. As time went by, we started to suspect something was wrong. After initial tests we found out that I had a low sperm count which meant that we would have to go down the assisted pregnancy route. This took me several months to get my head around as I blamed myself for this. All I wanted was my wife to be able to go through the pregnancy journey. We couldn’t wait to become parents. There were many long and painful nights where I thought this would never happen for us. After several failed attempts we decided to look at further ways of improving our chances. This led us to look at fertility supplements, our diet, exercise. I will never forget when that morning during our Two Week Wait when Deborah woke me up at 5 a.m. to show me those two lines, we had both been yearning for! We are blessed to now have our beautiful daughter.
 

On challenging days, what kept you going? Where did you find inspiration?

My wife was my inspiration. She kept me going through those challenging months and years. She was there to help me deal with everything. The guilt I felt when I saw her having to go through everything.
 

What is your ideal was to relax and unwind?

My latest passion is cooking on my BBQ. I find it so peaceful and I just switch off. It just gives me a bit of alone time which everyone needs.
 

If there was just one thing you could impart on men as they begin trying to become parents, what would it be?

I would highly recommend communicating with friends and family. A problem shared is a problem halved. Failing that there are some really good private Facebook groups for men suffering from infertility. I found this great support through the good and especially the bad times.

Deborah Brock

Founder & CEO of Nua Fertility

 

Deborah has a personal passion for fertility health, supporting people and communities. With over 15 years experience of working in the Non profit and Education sector, I have had the honour of working together with people and communities focusing on their strengths, capacities and assets. With extensive senior management, project management and creative programme development experience.

How did your experience with fertility inspire you to help start Nua Fertility?

My own personal fertility journey opened my eyes to the world of fertility health. Trying for a baby is one of the most exciting yet vulnerable times in your life. It took myself and my husband over three years and the helping hand of science to become a mum.  I have always worked with people and communities and felt my vision for Nua Fertility could genuinely support others who have fertility challenges.

Share a little about yourself—the things we wouldn’t learn from simply reading your professional bio.

I'm am curious person and love all things research. My ideal evening would be reading and exploring scientific journals! I like to think I am a little bit creative and I LOVE paint by numbers! Its probably the only time I slow down, I become immersed in the painting and think of nothing else.

What do you want to tell someone trying to conceive or already pregnant?

Educate yourself! Knowledge is power. The more you inform yourself about your fertility health the more you are empowering yourself with knowledge. Own your journey and take control over your own fertility health.

What’s something you wish someone told you while trying to conceive?

Open up and talk with friends and family. I was surrounded by amazing friends and family but I never opened up. When your struggling to conceive, a non-judgemental ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on is so powerful.