The microbiome–the genome of our collective microbiota–has become a trendy topic in medicine lately. With more microbial than human cells in our bodies, it’s becoming clear we should think of ourselves as collectives. Citizen scientists have been contributing to the understanding of microbiota biodiversity through the American Gut Project. Yet most of us don’t really consider that when we eat, we are feeding our microbes just as much as ourselves. What would you eat to optimize your microbiome?
Dr. Will Bulsiewicz is a fiber evangelist. Feeding our microbiota with plants, especially high-fiber plants, helps the healthful ones flourish. In fact, the American Gut Project showed that the best predictor of microbial diversity is the number of unique plant species a person eats. A wide range of plants presumably encourages different microbes to flourish, and healthful species tend to predominate.
Junk food, on the other hand, seems to promote the growth of pathogenic varieties. Find out how our microbiota influence the immune system, metabolism, hormone balance, cognitive function and other significant aspects of our health. Moreover, find out why they love broccoli sprouts, leafy greens, lentils and beans. What else do they appreciate? Fermented foods, probiotics and prebiotic fibers. In summary, think of the FGOALS: Fruit, Fermented Foods, Greens, Grains, Omega-3 fats, Aromatics, Legumes, 'Shrooms and Sulforaphane. Given such fuel, you can optimize your microbiome so that the very diverse organisms that comprise it will produce the short chain fatty acids (SCFA) you need.
What can you do to reduce problems with intestinal gas as you are gearing up your diet to optimize your microbiome? Traditional cuisines that focus on many of these foods include other plants such as asafoetida, fennel, ginger or mint tea to help control flatulence.
Will Bulsiewicz, MD, MCSI, is a gastroenterologist, gut health expert and the author of more than twenty articles in the top American gastroenterology journals. He's a graduate of Georgetown University School of Medicine and was chief medical resident at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and chief gastroenterology fellow at the University of North Carolina Hospitals. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina, with his wife and two children. His book is Fiber Fueled: The Plant-Based Gut Health Program for Losing Weight, Restoring Your Health, and Optimizing Your Microbiome. The photo of Dr. Busiewicz in the greenhouse is by Margaret Wright.