As more and more research uncovers the importance of the good bacteria in our gut to nearly every aspect of our health, scientists are racing to try to determine how to optimize our diets to best feed these bugs that we rely on. I've written before about how important probiotics, prebiotics, and fiber consumption are to establishing and maintaining a healthy microbiome, but according to new research, there may be more you can do to keep your gut healthy.
While it's certainly tricky to determine which specific dietary components have the most impact, researchers at the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre have been trying to narrow it down. To do so, they designed 25 different diets with varying levels of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. They fed these diets to nearly a thousand mice, looking for patterns in whether the mice's microbe species increased or decreased based on their diets.
It's important to note that gut bacteria feed on carbon and nitrogen, which they get from the food we consume. And carbohydrates don't supply any nitrogen. The bacteria can get that only from protein. Therefore, the researchers found that the protein-carbohydrate ratios in the mice's diets made a big difference in their bacteria abundance.
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Now that they know how important nitrogen is to keeping gut bacteria happy, the researchers are hoping to utilize computer models to identify the best combinations of macronutrients for optimal gut health. Until they pinpoint it, you can move in a healthy direction by consuming plenty of high-quality protein. That will help ensure you have enough nitrogen in your system, particularly if you're someone who tends to gravitate towards carbohydrates.
A good way to do this is to eat a product like Greek yogurt, which will give you the double benefit of protein and probiotics. And when you do eat carbs, choose ones that will feed your gut bacteria. The best ones are high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You also can add a protein and fiber bars, like Bhu Bars to your diet. These are great tasting bars that help make you feel full and give you a healthy dose of protein and fiber. Our gut bacteria do a lot for us; the least we can do is feed them a diet they enjoy!
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD