Are you friends with your gut bacteria?

The microbiome.

Inside our bodies, there are tiny living creatures called microbes.

These include bacteria, fungi and viruses. Many of these microbes have evolved alongside us. They live in a multi-species community called the microbiome.

Some of these microbes help out with the body’s functions.

For example, the ones in our gut help us digest food and have crosstalk with the nervous and immune system. Others in our bladder prevent infections and keep our immune system balanced.

Taking care of our microbiome helps us stay healthy too.

Our microbiome is healthiest when there’s a balance of different kinds of microbes. What we eat, the medicines we take, and our environment can change this balance.

When the microbiome isn’t balanced, we might have frequent infections or struggle to digest food.

Example: Antibiotics

If you take antibiotics for an infection, they can kill some of the microbes in your body.

This upsets the balance in the microbiome, and your immune system gets involved.

You might feel inflamed or irritated and think it’s another infection, so you take more antibiotics.

This makes the problem worse.

Breaking the Cycle

We can be more thoughtful about how we use antibiotics and build up the microbiome through what we eat.

  • Boosting Microbiome Diversity: Be aware of how your food is processed before it reaches your plate. The more chemicals used; the fewer good microbes end up in your stomach.
  • Feeding the Microbiome: Many foods don’t get absorbed by our bodies but feed the microbes. Microbes especially like to eat plant material like fiber, oligosaccharides, and polyphenols.
  • Avoiding feeding microbes in an unbalanced way: Sugar, alcohol and antibiotics can all make certain microbes grow out of balance, causing problems such as inflammation. Cut down on substances like fast-acting sugar and alcohol, and only take antibiotics when they are really needed*.

*Note: if you start a course of antibiotics, you should complete it. Taking too short a course, or taking a lower dose than prescribed can lead to antibiotic resistance.

In summary: Try to eat more fresh fruits, cooked veggies, and fermented food and cut down on processed food and sugar. Introduce new foods slowly to give your gut time to adapt.


Therapist Tip Sticker

Fibre might be tasty for the microbiome but at first, high fibre food can be harder to digest. If you are exhausted, and need to build up resources, you might want to reduce the fibre in your diet and focus on getting nutrients in a way that is easier to digest. Once you feel stronger you can introduce fibre bit by bit.

A note on supplements

Many people with functional symptoms end up spending a lot of money trying to feel better. This often includes buying expensive dietary supplements.

Our advice is that this is not usually necessary. Overall there is no evidence that supplements help functional symptoms.

A balanced diet is usually a more effective way to get the micronutrients you need. However there are some common deficiencies that are more common in chronic illness, including Vitamin D, zinc, B-vitamins and magnesium. These micronutrients can usually be replaced at low cost.

If you suspect you have a micronutrient deficiency, you can work out your risk with your GP-