What is a Gut-Microbiome Diet?
By Dan Trecroci
Have you ever been to a concert or sporting event, and sat up in the stadium’s nosebleed seats?
When you look down, what do you see—about 50,000 people?
Now, multiply that crowd of 50,000 people that you see by 100,000,000.
If you can visualize a number that big, you can visualize the trillions of microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other life forms) living together inside our body’s microbiome.
What is the Microbiome?
Before 1990, the human microbiome was barely on anybody’s radar.
Today, however, we know that the trillions of microorganisms (microbiota or microbes) within our microbiome have over 100 times the genes that we do.1
Our microbiome plays a critical role in our health, development, immunity, and nutrition. Much like your fingerprint—your microbiome is unique to you.
The bacteria in our microbiome helps us:
- Digest food
- Regulate our immune system
- Protect against other bacteria that cause disease, and
- Produce postbiotics, such as vitamins—including B vitamins B12, thiamine and riboflavin, and Vitamin K2 and other metabolites that help with a variety of processes in health maintenance
In a healthy person, the microorganisms of the microbiome peacefully coexist. However, if there is a disturbance in that balance—brought on by infections, chronic illnesses, certain diets, or the prolonged use of antibiotics—dysbiosis (a reduction in microbial diversity3) occurs.4
There is also growing public interest in how the gut microbiome can be influenced — often focused on personal dietary choices.5
Kristin Neusel, MS, RD, LD, CDCES, is a registered dietitian who specializes in microbiome and diabetes care. She calls the microbiome one of the most exciting and promising frontiers in health and nutrition science.
“In recent years, our understanding of the microbiome has grown exponentially,” says Neusel. “It’s now clear that the microbiome has an outsized impact on health and disease.
What is the Gut Microbiome?
Many of these trillions of microbiome microbes live in your small and large intestines—also known as the gut microbiome6—and play a critical role in your health.
Major progress has been made in:
- Defining dominant members of the healthy-large-intestine microbial community, and
- Identifying their roles in gut metabolism
One of the takeaways is that diet can have a major influence on microbial community composition—both in the short and long term. Microbiology researchers at the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health at the University of Aberdeen says this should open up new possibilities for managing our health via our diets.7
Is There a Microbiome Diet?
Healthy eating and exercise have always been crucial parts of managing the gut microbiome. In the words of Dr. Mark Hyman, food isn’t like medicine, it is medicine.
Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is easier than you think. The basic thing to remember is that those trillions of bacteria and bugs in your gut really love fiber.
However, many—if not most—people follow “westernized diets'' that are high in fat and sugar—and low in fiber. Following a westernized diet can be a problem because if your gut microbiome is denied fiber for a long enough time, this can cause that dysbiosis we previously mentioned that could potentially lead to a variety of health issues.
Part of a healthy eating plan for your gut microbiome includes incorporating a good amount of fiber.
“Fiber is the part of plant foods (e.g. fruits, vegetables, and whole-intact grains) that your body can’t digest or absorb,” says Natalie Carabeo, MS, RD, LDN. “Fiber is a carbohydrate that does not impact blood glucose, and it passes relatively intact or undigested through your stomach, small intestine, colon, and then out of your body.”
Kristin Neusel adds that it is best to have a diverse gut microbiome, as each strain is responsible for something different.
“A healthy eating plan, regular exercise, and not overdoing it with antibiotics can help create a diverse microbiome—among other things,” says Neusel.
There are lots of books out there that discuss the “gut microbiome diet.” Neusel, however, says that many of these diets are not rooted in clinical data.
In order to help nourish your gut microbiome, she says you don’t need a “cleanse” or “reset.”
“It’s really much simpler than that,” she says. “Increasing the amount of fiber that you get in your diet—specifically soluble fiber—can be the best start.”
Neusel says that many “fad diets” see carbs as being “bad,” so the fad diet overlooks fiber—which is a carbohydrate—as a nutrient.
“Not all carbohydrates are bad… ” says Neusel “... and fiber is the nutrient that helps feed your gut microbiome.”
Natalie Carabeo adds that fiber is the major energy source for many bacterial strains (probiotics) within your gut microbiome.
“There are many great reasons to add fiber to your diet,” says Carabeo. “We want to have a diverse microbiome, and these probiotics in our gut love to eat just like we do.”
Carabeo adds that fiber helps:
- Slow the absorption of glucose
- Manage blood sugars
- Lower cholesterol
- You feel fuller longer, which can help prevent you from overeating
- Aids with digestion and keeps you regular
There are many dietary solutions that can help improve your microbiome health. Discover some other high-fiber superfoods here.
To help nourish your gut microbiome, Pendulum Therapeutics’ dietitians also provide personalized, 1-Hour Nutrition Coaching Calls.
Are There Microbiome Probiotics?
Manufactured by the San Francisco biotech company Pendulum Therapeutics, Pendulum Glucose Control was developed to help with the management of Type 2 diabetes.
The targeted probiotics within a Pendulum Glucose Control capsule include:
- Clostridium beijerinckii WB-STR-0005
- Clostridium butyricum WB-STR-0006
- Akkermansia muciniphila WB-STR-0001
- Anaerobutyricum hallii WB-STR-0008
- Bifidobacterium infantis 100
A prebiotic food (known as inulin) is also part of the Pendulum Glucose Control capsule used to fuel beneficial gut bacteria.
“The rationale for having inulin in the PGC capsule, it’s like we’re sending these beneficial bacteria in the PGC capsule out for a picnic,” says Orville G Kolterman, MD, who is an endocrinologist and Pendulum’s chief medical officer. “The 5 probiotics are going down the gut to have a picnic. The inulin is there so that when the 5 probiotics arrive at their picnic, they have something to eat right away to help them get established.”
Pendulum Glucose Control has been scientifically shown to help lower A1C and post-meal blood glucose spikes in people with Type 2 diabetes who were also taking metformin.
Pendulum Therapeutics' combination of targeted probiotic strains cannot be found in any other probiotic on the market, and is patented.
How Does Akkermansia Contribute to a Healthy Gut Microbiome?
Studies indicate that Akkermansia muciniphila may play a key role in gut-health maintenance.8
Akkermansia muciniphila is the bacterium within a Pendulum Glucose Control capsule that has a bit of a Napoleonic Complex.
- Akkermansia muciniphila comprises 3-5% of the bacterium in the gut microbiome, but it's the bacterium that gets all the headlines
- Despite its underrepresented presence in the gut-microbiome sandbox, Akkermansia muciniphila is loud, proud, and super effective in its limited role
- Akkermansia muciniphila munches on the mucin layer all day, which in turn enforces it to create a thicker layer
Akkermansia muciniphila is now available as a stand-alone product known as Pendulum Akkermansia.
Pendulum Akkermansia is a food product that can help nurture your body's microbiome and maintain gut health. This product is not intended for use in the management of Type 2 diabetes, nor is it intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.
Is There Microbiome Testing That is Available?
There are lots out there. It’s about finding the right one for you.
Thorne’s at-home Gut Health Test utilizes gut-microbiome sequencing technology – paired with Onegevity’s Health Intelligence – to provide answers about your gut
Zoe is another comprehensive- at-home poop test to understand your gut health.
What are Some Good Gut-Microbiome Resources?
You can always check the Pendulum Life Digest! Go to the search bar and type “microbiome.”
When looking for microbiome resources, always look for credentialed, qualified sites that have registered dietitians or qualified credentialed healthcare providers providing sound, scientific advice.