Improve your gut microbiome balance

Have you heard about how vital the gut microbiome is to your good health?

Perhaps you're not even sure what a 'microbiome' is.

According to Clinical Nutritionist Stephanie Moore  the gut microbiome is 'the 100 trillion bacteria that live in the digestive system.' This treasure trove of bacteria is a vital part of our makeup.

Probiotics keep you slim

These bacteria in the gut microbiome are the ‘good’ bacteria -the ones the advertisers of probiotic drinks love to talk about. Scientists have long known these bacteria to be involved with digestion and immune health. Proponents of ‘good bacteria’ say these bacteria have been shown to improve our stomach health, keep type 2 diabetes at bay, ensure we are mentally happier and healthier and our help detoxify and eliminate carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) and even cancerous cells. If all that wasn’t enough, apparently having a healthy gut microbiome can even keep us slim!

Which probiotic is best?

It’s the latest topic that medical researcher Dr Michael Mosley has put under the microscope. In the BBC TV programme Trust Me, I'm A Doctor, Mosely set up an experiment in Inverness along with NHS Highland.

Thirty volunteers were split into three groups and over four weeks asked each group tried a different strategy to boost gut health. These were:

  • Probiotic drinks - these have a couple of different kinds of bacteria said to improve gut health..
  • Kefir - A traditional fermented drink.
  • Prebiotic rich diet - A fibre called inulin is full of prebiotics. Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, onions, garlic and leeks are good sources of inulin.

The probiotic drink group saw a modest improvement in one bacteria helpful for keeping a healthy weight - Lachnospiraceae. But this was not clinically significant.

The group eating the inulin-rich diet also saw healthy bacteria boosted - but it wasn't the most impressive out of the test.

Kefir best probiotic

The kefir group was the clear winner. Those who glugged down kefir saw a rise in bacteria called Lactobacillales. This bacteria is great for overall health, and can help with lactose intolerance and upset tummies.

The fact that Kefir is such a winner for stomach health does not surprise Stephanie Moore. She says: ‘Fermented (probiotic) foods, which contain live beneficial bacteria can help support a healthy gut microbiome by actually taking good microbes in to the gut to keep the ratio at a healthy balance. These foods include kefir and also raw sauerkraut and Kimchi (fermented vegetables), live natural yogurt, Kombucha (fermented tea) and Miso (fermented soy).'  She goes on to add, ‘Humans do not have the capacity to digest fibre, but the bacteria do it really well, allowing the good bacteria to remain healthy and grow, ensuring any bad stuff is kept at bay. This then improves our capacity to manufacture nutrients within the gut, increases the ‘intelligence’ of our immune system and improves the body’s ability to control inflammation.’

Kefir for your gut microbiome

So will simply slurping kefir be enough to keep your gut microbiome as balanced as possible? According to Miss Moore, it’s part of a raft of strategies she advises to keep conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome at bay. She says: ‘The gut bacteria need to be enhanced in number and variety to ensure good health and vitality and this can only be achieved long-term if these functional foods (like kefir)  are included.'

A group of organisms too small to be seen with the naked eye, which are usually made up of just a single cell. Full medical glossary
A common name for the large and/or small intestines. Full medical glossary
Abnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. Full medical glossary
Malignant, a tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of all living organisms. Full medical glossary
A disorder caused by insufficient or absent production of the hormone insulin by the pancreas, or because the tissues are resistant to the effects. Full medical glossary
The organs specialised to fight infection. Full medical glossary
The body’s response to injury. Full medical glossary
one of the sugars present in milk. Full medical glossary
the organ or the body where food is stored and broken down Full medical glossary
trichomonal vaginosis Full medical glossary