Have you been feeling a little low lately – anxious, beat down, and wound up at the same time? Have you been low on energy, feeling hungry and bloated as well as gassy, or have you missed a few trips to the loo, or are you making too many? If the answer to some or all of these questions is a yes, then you no longer have a healthy gut. To understand what went wrong with it, you need to understand the gut.
The human gut is home to not just hollow organs but also to a network of microbes – fungi, viruses, yeasts, and bacteria. This is also known as the gut microbiome. The gut bacteria are what we will be looking at. Humans and bacteria have been together a long time, to the point where certain bacteria would not be able to survive in the outside world and humans wouldn’t be as healthy and functioning without them. Research has found that the gut is not only responsible for nutrition and waste elimination but the gut also influences almost every other biological system. It isn’t the gut per se but the beneficial bacteria that live there. These bacteria support the immune system, influence the production and release of neurotoxins, affect nutrient absorption, impact skin and hair quality, and even fortify brain and mental health.
The bacteria, with their other microbe friends, live in the intestines. But not all bacteria are friendly; some are pathogenic. Healthy bacteria survive and multiply; increasing their numbers and eventually becoming the majority in the gut. The beneficial bacteria are in majority, most of the time. During their reign, you have little to no stomach issues and life is good. But when the pathogenic bacteria take over – you have dysbiosis. The good bacteria take a back seat while the harmful ones give you gas, a bloated tummy, diarrhea, and constipation. If dysbiosis is left unchecked, it could lead to chronic conditions like IBS – irritable bowel syndrome, IBD – inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, type 2 diabetes, and many other medical issues.
Cases, where one has inherited an unhealthy gut, are rare and far between. Dysbiosis is caused by several controllable causes.
Exercise: Research claims that the more physical activity one engages in, the healthier the gut microbiota. The gym isn’t the only available option – walking instead of taking the car, using the stairs, gardening, swimming or simply taking the dog for a walk. All this involves body movement which encourages the growth of helpful bacteria.
Alcohol & Tobacco use: Dysbiosis is a common feature when alcohol is consumed excessively. Alcohol decreases the number of probiotic bacteria. Red wine seems to have a positive effect due to the presence of polyphenols. The same is true for cigarette smoking. Smokers are at a much higher risk of developing IBD, celiac disease, or suffering from chronic inflammation. All these conditions stem from compromised gut health.
Antibiotics: The discovery of antibiotics has saved millions of lives over the years. However, the pills do not discriminate between good and bad bacteria. Hence, antibiotics kill bacteria regardless of the role they play. Extended use of these drugs can lead to dysbiosis.
Stress & Sleep: High levels of stress release cortisol which wreak havoc on the body and the cozy environment in the gut. With stress comes the loss of sleep. Just like us, the gut microbes follow a similar circadian rhythm and when we lose sleep this disturbs gut health too. Exposure to stress and low-quality sleep does a number on mental health as well.
Diet: What you put into your body affects gut health to a great extent. Diet is also the primary cause of dysbiosis. So much of what is convenient, easy, and tasty is bad for you that the choice to eat healthy foods is almost non-existent. Processed foods – frozen meals, canned goods, and packeted powders are cheap and easier to cook up rather than a meal from scratch. Certain foods like fried foods, high-sugar foods, and artificial sweeteners damage the gut.
An unhealthy diet is the chief cause of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular issues. With an exercise regime and a healthy diet, these issues can be kept at bay. One such diet is the microbiome diet.
The Microbiome Diet Review
A new trend on the dieting scene, the microbiome diet is recommended and used for healthy and steady weight loss. Dr. Raphael Kellman developed the diet based on his understanding that the gut microbiome holds the secret of healthy and permanent weight loss. What’s more, the diet may even be able to encourage feelings of well-being, optimism, and motivation.
The microbiome diet is a three-phase program that would not only help one to lose weight but would also support a faster metabolism. The logic this diet uses is pretty straightforward – eating the right foods would keep the gut microbes healthy. With healthy bacteria in the gut, the body experiences better health and efficient metabolism. The diet also maintains the balance of the gut bacteria, curbing the risk of dysbiosis and obesity. Dr. Kellman states that the bacterial strains in the gut microbiota contribute to the well-being of the human body. The microbiome produces short-chain fatty acids that aid:
- The Immune System,
- Support Brain Function,
- And Decrease inflammation.
- These bacteria help to regulate metabolism, and mood and help in the production of neurotransmitters.
The diet is a three-phase program and each phase comes with its own set of dos and don’ts. Keep in mind, the microbiome diet is restrictive – meaning that the diet is a serious commitment that would put a vice on the consumption of a lot of foods. To experience the benefits of the diet, it must be completed and the rules should be followed. The diet recommends a 3-phase system.
The first phase lasts for 21 days. Phase 1 is more like the cleansing phase where one must eliminate all foods that may irritate or cause additional grief to a healthy microbiome. Instead of supposedly gut-damaging foods, plant-based foods must be consumed as they are easier to break down by the digestive system and provide the bacteria with ample nutrition. For this purpose, the 4Rs have been put in place:
- Remove – by removing gut function-disrupting foods, one has a better chance of eliminating pathogens, toxins, and undesirable bacterial strains from the body.
- Repair – once the pathogenic bacteria have been removed, the gut lining would begin to heal and inflammation would reduce.
- Replace – with the ingestion of plant-based foods, the stomach acid, and pancreatic and digestive enzymes would be replaced.
- Reinoculated – the new diet pattern would then repopulate the gut microbiota with healthy probiotic bacteria.
The 4Rs are not a step-by-step process but for the duration of the 3 weeks of phase 1, the 4Rs would be happening constantly. Dr. Kellman proposes a list of foods that must be avoided and foods that should be consumed instead.
|Foods to Avoid
|Foods to Include
|Artificial Sweeteners, dairy products except for butter or clarified butter, deli meats, eggs, fried foods, grains, gluten, high-fructose corn syrup, fillers or artificial colors, high mercury fish, packaged fruit juice, packaged foods, soy, potatoes, corn, legumes except for lentils or chickpeas, trans or hydrogenated fats, and peanuts.
|Butter, ghee, lentils, chickpeas, prebiotic foods like Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onions, probiotic foods like sauerkraut and kimchi and other fermented foods, apple, berries, cherries, nectarines, kiwi, oranges, rhubarb, healthy fats from low mercury fish, avocado, nuts, seed like chia or flax, healthy oils like sunflower or olive oil.
Focus is to be placed on organic and natural foods as opposed to processed or canned goods. Probiotic-rich foods like kombucha or yogurt-based drinks should replace coffee or tea as caffeine may also cause gut health issues. For those who cannot do without meat, grass-fed meat or wild fish is recommended instead or those obtained from farms.
Over the next 4 weeks, newer foods could be included in this diet. This would slowly help the digestive tract get used to working on a diverse load and would improve tolerance towards most foods. The foods that are safe to be added include:
- Sheep’s or goat’s dairy and kefir – fermented milk,
- Organic free-range eggs,
- Starchy fruits like mangoes, melons, peaches, and pears,
- Gluten-free grains like amaranth, buckwheat, basmati or wild rice, free oats, quinoa,
- Beans of all colors and kidney beans, sweet potatoes, and yams.
Most of these foods include a significant amount of dietary fiber and this helps to nourish the newly introduced bacteria in the digestive tract.
This is the final phase and ideally, it should last a lifetime to ensure a balanced microbiome. There are no strict rules to this phase per se but Dr. Kellman does advise avoiding foods that cause inflammation. If the gut flora and the gut lining are healthy one can enjoy freedom from chronic diseases and obesity.
Additions to the Diet
Apart from foods, the microbiome diet also includes the use of supplements that could improve gut health like probiotics to keep the harmful bacteria numbers low and keep the gut bacteria healthy, Read more about the 10 Best Prebiotic and Probiotics Supplements. Natural acids and enzymes like protease, lipase, or amylase are also suggested as they would aid in the breakdown of proteins and carbs. Moreover, adding natural elements like zinc, vitamin D, glutamine, and slippery elm could keep the intestinal lining healthy and ensure limited permeability.
While on the diet, Dr. Kellman asks that a good quality water filter be used and to consume organic foods as much as possible. This would curb the intake of pesticides and harmful chemicals.
Antibiotics should be taken as a last resort and the use of them should be for a very limited period. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication use should also be kept to a minimum.
Does Science Back the Microbiome Diet?
There is no justifiable research to either confirm or deny the efficacy of the microbiome diet. But there are related studies that may support the use of this diet to support gut health.
- A study conducted in 2019 noted that a diet based on fruits and vegetables and other plant-based foods did promote a more diverse gut microbiome. As the microbiome diet promotes a plant-based diet, this is true for the diet as well. The microbiome diet suggests the use of probiotic supplements and probiotic foods as a part of the regime.
- A review in 2017 noted that the consumption of probiotics could help with obesity, IBS, and many gastrointestinal issues.
- A 2013 study found that changing to healthy eating can cause changes to occur in the gut flora and this may or may not be for the better.
Genetics still governs, to a certain extent, the way food and diet influence the gut and because of this, different people have various approaches to the microbiome diet. Depending on the individual, the microbiome diet could affect drastic positive changes or show little to no changes at all. There have been no reports of side effects or issues arising from following the microbiome diet. Science does back the logic used by the diet but the extent to which it could affect an individual is quite difficult to gauge.
Pros & Cons of the Microbiome Diet
For the most part, the microbiome diet hits more targets than most gut health diets fads. So, there are significant benefits to following the diet.
- The aim of the diet is a healthy gut and to achieve this the microbiome diet begins by eliminating all foods and factors that may cause gut health to suffer. Avoiding gluten and dairy (the most common food intolerances) is a smart suggestion.
- The diet encourages the consumption of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, gluten-free grains, and lean protein. On the whole, this is a very good idea to help keep the calorie count down and nutrition value up. It also puts a stop to artificial sweeteners and sugar intake as a whole.
- Prebiotic-rich foods and probiotic foods are central to the diet, to know the difference between Prebiotic and Probiotics, read more. Both these foods can ensure a healthy gut by providing nutrition for the gut bacteria and keeping the beneficial bacteria numbers up. The dietary fiber from prebiotic foods like leeks, onions, and garlic keeps the bacteria healthy and stops the harmful and unhealthy bacteria from forming large colonies.
- The diet suggests avoiding processed foods, foods from cans, generic farms, and frozen goods. This is a good thing as such foods are known to impact overall health and digestive issues. The focus is on organic foods, fruits, and vegetables which are the better choice on several fronts.
- The diet suggests that the use of antibiotics and NSAIDs be limited or restricted. This further helps the gut bacteria recuperate from losses and prevents damage to the gut wall.
- Because the microbiome diet has a restricted food list, the body gets its dose of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and carbs without overloading it with sugars or unhealthy fats. This promotes weight loss and a sense of well-being.
- With prolonged engagement in the diet, heart disease, inflammatory diseases like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, type 2 diabetes, etc., blood pressure, obesity, and mental issues like anxiety or depression are all kept at bay.
The microbiome diet does have a few cons too.
- The emphasis on organic foods and farm-to-table diet is slightly restrictive. Such foods do come at a price that not many can afford. It may also be environmentally difficult for some to find such foods.
- The diet has a rather heavy dependency on supplements. While most of the benefits can be reaped from a diverse diet. The diet does suggest that the use of supplements is vital.
- Many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are not allowed while on the diet. While it isn’t so bad, the restriction on plant foods that contain several beneficial compounds is a downer.
Healthy Gut Naturally
The microbiome diet is not a bad idea. It is restrictive and many may find it slightly strenuous to stick to a restrictive food list for life. When trying to reset the gut, the microbiome diet is a good move. There is no obligation to stay on the diet for life. Once the gut is healed, one does have the option to ease into a normal, healthy, and balanced diet. The body has a natural tendency to recover from illness or dysbiosis provided that it receives a certain degree of help.
Increasing the intake of plant foods makes for a much healthier lifestyle. Opting for salads instead of steak and fries is better. Also, including the consumption of fermented foods and drinks would help the gut stay healthy without much trouble. Cut back on red meat as it is difficult to digest, instead depending on lean protein meats can give you the same nutritional value. Avoid processed goods and opt for fresher options. Take antibiotics only when necessary. When these diet rules are followed, the microbiome diet need not be followed completely.
No diet works, for weight loss or gut health, with a sedentary lifestyle. Restrict alcohol intake and avoid cigarettes. Exercise and engaging in physical activities will only further positive health outcomes, here are a few Exercises for Gut Health that you can try.
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2. When considering a gut microbiome diet, it is essential for women to address their specific dietary needs. Yourbiology Gut Plus is designed with women’s unique digestive health in mind, offering a supportive supplement solution that works hand-in-hand with the foods you choose to nourish your microbiota and optimize your overall gut health.
The Bottom Line
Dr. Kellman’s Microbiome Diet is good to fix gut health issues and weight problems. The diet is restrictive which is probably why it works. To a certain extent, the diet is backed by science. There is ample reason to suggest that the diet has more benefits than drawbacks. The diet is a great way to reset the gut if one is facing issues. However, following the microbiome diet for the rest of one’s natural life is quite a steep demand. The best way to go is to take the good from Dr. Kellman and add one’s spin to it by adding some Digestive Superfoods, read more. Since what suits one may not suit another, the diet does have benefits but the extent of those benefits is yet to be seen.