The Best Foods for a Healthy Gut Microbiome

Eating certain foods can help diversify the gut microbiome

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The trillions of microbes that make up our gut microbiome are highly active and constantly changing. It turns out they are sensitive to the foods and drinks we consume. In fact, research has uncovered how the types of species of bacteria in our gut can change in as little as two days after switching from a plant-based diet to an animal-based diet and vice-versa.[1] Perturbations in the gut microbiome have been associated with health concerns, including irritable bowel disease, insulin resistance, and obesity.[2] In an emerging area of research, the gut microbiome has been associated with various skin diseases including rosacea, psoriasis, and acne in a complex communication network called the skin-gut axis. As scientific research reveals more connections between diet, the gut microbiome, and skin health, it becomes apparent how the foods we eat are very important in living healthy lives.[3]

There is well-established research showing the harmful effects of certain foods, such as meat and sugar, on disrupting gut microbiome homeostasis.[4,5] However, there are foods we can consume that may help bolster a diverse and healthy gut microbiome and possibly even improve or prevent skin conditions. Try incorporating the following foods into your regular diet for optimal gut health:

 

Fermented Foods

Fermented foods contain probiotics, which are living microorganisms that can bestow health benefits in the correct doses.[6] Consuming probiotics may potentially help to diversify our gut microbiome and promote a healthier gut. In fact, several studies have demonstrated that probiotics improve skin conditions, including eczema, acne, and psoriasis.[7-9] There are many delicious fermented foods to incorporate into your regular diet.

Table 1. Fermented Foods

Fermented Food Origin

Kefir

Mexico, Tibet, and North Caucasus Mountains

Kimchi

Korea

Kombucha

China

Miso

Japan

Nattō

Japan

Sauerkraut

China

Tempeh

Indonesia

Yogurt (look for non-dairy alternatives if lactose intolerant)

Many


Low FODMAP Foods

The low FODMAP diet emphasizes the limitation of foods that contain certain low fermentable carbohydrates, including short chain oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharaides, and polyols. The FODMAP diet originated to improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and recent studies have demonstrated the ability of the FODMAP diet to significantly alter the gut microbiome and improve gastrointestinal distress.[10]

  • Examples of Low FODMAP foods (food to include): vegetables (alfalfa, collard greens, cucumber, kale, lettuce, pumpkin, potato, spinach, yam, zucchini), fruits (bananas, berries, grapes, oranges), meat, fish, gluten-free bread and flour, brazil nuts, oats, rice, seeds, walnuts, lactose free dairy, eggs.[11]
  • Examples of High FODMAP foods (foods to avoid): include garlic, onions, asparagus, beans, high fructose fruits (apples, blackberries, cherries, mangoes, peaches, watermelon), processed meat, wheat products, cashews, pastries, pasta, agave, artificial sweeteners, fruit juice, whey protein.[11]

 

High Fiber Foods

Soluble and insoluble fiber is found in foods such as vegetables, berries, seeds, and whole grains. In a study comparing the gut microbiome of European children consuming a Western diet versus African children consuming a rural diet rich in vegetables, there were significant differences between their gut microbiomes. Those following a high fiber diet had a microbiome rich in Bacteroidetes (considered “good” bacteria), depleted of Firmicutes (considered unhealthy bacteria), and also had lower inflammation and irritable bowel disease than the European children following a Western diet.[12]

 

Resistant Starches

Resistant starches are a type of fiber in high carbohydrate foods and in starch degradation products that cannot be digested and absorbed by the small intestine. Examples of resistant starches include beans, unripe (slightly green) bananas, yams, barley, and cooked potatoes and rice after cooling. When potatoes are cooled after being cooked, the carbohydrates undergo a process called retrogradation and form chemical structures that are less easily digested.[13,14] Ingestion of resistant starches may improve insulin resistance,[15] although more studies are needed to assess this connection. Furthermore, resistant starches are metabolized by our gut microbiota to release molecules called short-chain fatty acids. It is believed these short chain fatty acids (such as butyrate and propionate), along with other gut microbiota metabolites, offer health promoting hormonal, physiological, and immunologic effects.[16] Dietary fiber that is metabolized by gut microbial organisms is termed “prebiotics” and is important for the production of health promoting metabolites, including molecules such as short chain fatty acids, serotonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and deoxycholic acid.[17,18] 

Our lifestyle factors may influence the diversity of our gut microbiome. Diet appears to have a prominent and important effect on the species diversity and richness of the microorganisms that reside in our gut, which in turn can influence many factors in our health including intestinal health, body composition, and even skin health. The connections between the gut microbiome and the skin are only now being uncovered. There is some evidence that the health of the gut may associate with the health of the skin,[19-21] which is a new and exciting research arena.

 

* This Website is for general skin beauty, wellness, and health information only. This Website is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem. The information provided on this Website should never be used to disregard, delay, or refuse treatment or advice from a physician or a qualified health provider.

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References

  1. David LA, Maurice CF, Carmody RN, et al. Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome. Nature.2014;505(7484):559-563; PMID: 24336217 Link to research.
  2. Bull MJ, Plummer NT. Part 1: The Human Gut Microbiome in Health and Disease. Integr Med (Encinitas).2014;13(6):17-22; PMID: 26770121 Link to research.
  3. Moschen AR, Wieser V, Tilg H. Dietary Factors: Major Regulators of the Gut's Microbiota. Gut Liver.2012;6(4):411-416; PMID: 23170142 Link to research.
  4. Koeth RA, Wang Z, Levison BS, et al. Intestinal microbiota metabolism of L-carnitine, a nutrient in red meat, promotes atherosclerosis. Nat Med.2013;19(5):576-585; PMID: 23563705 Link to research.
  5. Collins KH, Paul HA, Hart DA, et al. A High-Fat High-Sucrose Diet Rapidly Alters Muscle Integrity, Inflammation and Gut Microbiota in Male Rats. Sci Rep.2016;6:37278; PMID: 27853291 Link to research.
  6. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation and the World Health Organization. Probiotics in food: Health and nutritional properties and guidelines for evaluation. In: consultation RoajFWe, ed2001.
  7. Yoshida YS, T; Matsunaka, H; Watanabe, T; Shindo, M; Yamada, N; Yamamoto, O. Clinical effects of probiotic Bifidobacterium breve supplementation in adult patients with atopic dermatitis. Yonago Acta Medica.2010;53:37-45. Link to research
  8. Jung GW, Tse JE, Guiha I, et al. Prospective, randomized, open-label trial comparing the safety, efficacy, and tolerability of an acne treatment regimen with and without a probiotic supplement and minocycline in subjects with mild to moderate acne. Journal of cutaneous medicine and surgery. 2013;17(2):114-122. Link to research.
  9. Groeger D, O'Mahony L, Murphy EF, et al. Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 modulates host inflammatory processes beyond the gut. Gut microbes. 2013;4(4):325-339. Link to research.
  10. Staudacher HM, Whelan K. Altered gastrointestinal microbiota in irritable bowel syndrome and its modification by diet: probiotics, prebiotics and the low FODMAP diet. Proc Nutr Soc.2016;75(3):306-318; PMID: 26908093 Link to research.
  11. Bhawan J. Short- and long-term histologic effects of topical tretinoin on photodamaged skin. Int J Dermatol.1998;37(4):286-292; PMID: 9585903 Link to research.
  12. De Filippo C, Cavalieri D, Di Paola M, et al. Impact of diet in shaping gut microbiota revealed by a comparative study in children from Europe and rural Africa. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.2010;107(33):14691-14696; PMID: 20679230 Link to research.
  13. Shamai K, Shimoni E, Bianco-Peled H. Small angle X-ray scattering of resistant starch type III. Biomacromolecules.2004;5(1):219-223; PMID: 14715029 Link to research.
  14. Wang SJ, Li C, Copeland L, et al. Starch Retrogradation: A Comprehensive Review. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety.2015;14(5):568-585. Link to research.
  15. Bodinham CL, Smith L, Thomas EL, et al. Efficacy of increased resistant starch consumption in human type 2 diabetes. Endocr Connect.2014;3(2):75-84; PMID: 24671124 Link to research.
  16. Bindels LB, Walter J, Ramer-Tait AE. Resistant starches for the management of metabolic diseases. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care.2015;18(6):559-565; PMID: 26406392 Link to research.
  17. Delcour JA, Aman P, Courtin CM, et al. Prebiotics, Fermentable Dietary Fiber, and Health Claims. Adv Nutr.2016;7(1):1-4; PMID: 26773010 Link to research.
  18. Sharon G, Garg N, Debelius J, et al. Specialized metabolites from the microbiome in health and disease. Cell Metab.2014;20(5):719-730; PMID: 25440054 Link to research.
  19. Scher JU, Ubeda C, Artacho A, et al. Decreased bacterial diversity characterizes the altered gut microbiota in patients with psoriatic arthritis, resembling dysbiosis in inflammatory bowel disease. Arthritis Rheumatol.2015;67(1):128-139; PMID: 25319745 Link to research.
  20. Groeger D, O'Mahony L, Murphy EF, et al. Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 modulates host inflammatory processes beyond the gut. Gut Microbes.2013;4(4):325-339; PMID: 23842110 Link to research.
  21. Parodi A, Paolino S, Greco A, et al. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in rosacea: clinical effectiveness of its eradication. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol.2008;6(7):759-764; PMID: 18456568 Link to research.