When our colleague Rob Stein got his microbiome analyzed recently in the name of science journalism, we were totally fascinated.
As Stein noted, it may be possible to cultivate a healthier community of bacteria on and inside us by modifying our diets.
Stein was advised to eat more garlic and leeks for his. But we wondered: Are there other foods that promote a healthy microbiome in most people?
The answer, we found out, is fairly complicated. Microbiome research is still in the very early stages. […]
Still, some foods look promising. Dietary fiber serves as food for many of the bacteria that live in our guts, says microbiome researcher Jeff Leach of the Human Food Project. “It doesn’t hurt as a general rule to eat more fiber,” Leach tells The Salt.
Too little fiber could starve the bacteria we want around. “When we starve our bacteria they eat us,” Leach says. “They eat the mucus lining – the mucin in our large intestine.”
Knight adds that when we do keep our bacteria well fed, they, in turn, give off nutrients that nourish the cells that line our guts. Fiber, Knight says, “is thought to be good for your gut health over all.” […]
Whole grains are another good source of fiber — but evaluating its benefits is a bit trickier. Whole grain consumption seems to be associated with high levels of a type of bacteria prevotella, Leach says. “Prevotella has been associated with inflammation in HIV patients [and] it’s been associated with rheumatoid arthritis.” We don’t know why that is, Leach says. “So the jury’s still out on whole grains.” […]
Still, the big question is whether we can actually reshape our microbiomes by changing our diets. “Short term dietary interventions,” Leach says, “don’t have a dramatic impact.” And slightly tweaking your diet probably isn’t going to do much either.
For my idea of what the answer is, see my next post immediately following this, in an hour or so.