Is Feeding Your Microbiota a Bad Idea?

The microbiota is a huge topic of research right now, and it’s pretty exciting. However, there’s a lot

Gut Bacteria

The microbiota is a huge topic of research right now, and it’s pretty exciting. However, there’s a lot of communication out there stating that in order to get healthy, you have to feed your microbiome. While that makes sense and it’s true for some people, this theory may not always be the best solution. Find out if it’s right for you.

If you need help with a gut-healing diet, click here

Is Feeding Your Microbiota a Bad Idea?

The microbiota is the world of bacteria that lives in your gut and all over your body. In this case, we’re referring to the gut microbiota.

This is a huge area of research right now, and it’s pretty exciting. However, there’s a lot of communication out there stating that in order to get healthy, you have to feed your microbiome. While that makes sense and it’s true for some people, this theory may not always be the best solution.

When we look at different populations, it appears that having more bacteria accompanies health. We see this in hunter-gatherers like those in Africa. They have a very diverse microbiome and eat lots of high-fiber, high-prebiotic foods. We also see in Western populations that increased bacteria tends to correlate with better health. This is something that is being observed, but it doesn’t mean it’s the best option for everyone.

Hunter-gatherer Africans have a completely different lifestyle than Westerners, and their immune systems are totally different. Their immune systems are used to a very diverse microbiome. It’s quite different in Western cultures. If you didn’t grow up with a certain type of microbiota and exposure to a lot of different bacteria, trying to force that into someone later in life may end up being a bad idea. It may be too much for the immune system and may cause the immune system to go into attack mode, which can worsen symptoms.

We see evidence of this when we look at Western populations. In many interventions that feed bacteria, some patients will actually get worse. This is most commonly observed in inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome and celiac disease, where bacterial overgrowth might be an issue. These patients tend to do worse on a diet high in prebiotic foods that feed the gut bacteria. This likely occurs because the patient’s immune system is dysregulated and may attack increased amounts of gut bacteria that it’s not used to.

What seems to help these patients are diets that lessen the amount of bacteria in the gut. These diets may be low-FODMAP and/or lower-carbohydrate diets, which are diets that are lower in fiber and prebiotics.

This doesn’t mean everyone needs to be on a low-FODMAP or low-carb diet, but if you have immune system dysregulation and current digestive problems, this approach may be the most helpful for you.

Low FODMAP Guide-use with weekly tipJust because we see a more diverse microbiota in those who are healthier doesn’t mean that the solution is to force more bacteria into an immunocompromised gut. If the immune system is already attacking the gut and microbiome, you don’t want to add fuel to the fire.

Perhaps you’ve tried adding more fiber and prebiotic foods to your diet and it makes you feel worse. In this case, it’s best to listen to your body and eat the foods that make you feel better. A low-FODMAP diet may be a good place to start, and you can expand your food diversity from there.

Use the image to the right for your low-FODMAP food guide.


If you need help with a gut-healing diet, click here

What do you think? I would like to hear your thoughts or experience with this.

Discussion

I care about answering your questions and sharing my knowledge with you. Leave a comment or connect with me on social media asking any health question you may have and I just might incorporate it into our next listener questions podcast episode just for you!

14 thoughts on “Is Feeding Your Microbiota a Bad Idea?

  1. I’ve read a comment in connection with Citrobacter. It says that if somebody use Magnesium Citrat (I use Calm) daily basis it increase the amount of citrobacter with a huge amount and the SIBO symptoms became worse day by day. It is true?

    1. Hi Helga,
      I don’t think this is fully true, the gut in not as simple as 1 bacteria. Its an entire eco-system and so good gut health outcome relies upon improving the eco-system. Hope this helps.

  2. Thank you so much for the article! Myself I’ve been on a low sulphur, low fodmap, AIP diet for more than a year and recently I’ve been adding back in small amounts of foods that give me gas (-methane producing SIBO-) because I’m concerned about unintentionally killing off other aspects of my microbiome. These foods are lettuce, dried coconut, fennel, tiny amounts of butternut squash, radish.. By trying to starve out the species that have overtaken my small intestine don’t I also risk permanently harming other species that I may not be able to replace? I also wonder about feeding the bacteria a little while on an herbal antimicrobial -berberine -) so as to keep them in an active state while hitting them on the head, so to speak.

    Also, do you have any experience with a product known as Restore which is supposed to support the intesttinal terrain to likewise support healthy bacteria? – thank you for your thoughts and great podcasts I’ve just discovered.

    1. Hi Doris,
      Did you see my post ‘All about fiber’ where I read a selection from my book? I speak to this question of ‘not feeding your microbiota’. There is FAR more to optimizing the terrain than a single product. My coming book will help you determine what terrain YOUR unique gut ecosystem needs. More to come soon. Hope this helps!

  3. Thank you so much for the article! Myself I’ve been on a low sulphur, low fodmap, AIP diet for more than a year and recently I’ve been adding back in small amounts of foods that give me gas (-methane producing SIBO-) because I’m concerned about unintentionally killing off other aspects of my microbiome. These foods are lettuce, dried coconut, fennel, tiny amounts of butternut squash, radish.. By trying to starve out the species that have overtaken my small intestine don’t I also risk permanently harming other species that I may not be able to replace? I also wonder about feeding the bacteria a little while on an herbal antimicrobial -berberine -) so as to keep them in an active state while hitting them on the head, so to speak.

    Also, do you have any experience with a product known as Restore which is supposed to support the intesttinal terrain to likewise support healthy bacteria? – thank you for your thoughts and great podcasts I’ve just discovered.

    1. Hi Doris,
      Did you see my post ‘All about fiber’ where I read a selection from my book? I speak to this question of ‘not feeding your microbiota’. There is FAR more to optimizing the terrain than a single product. My coming book will help you determine what terrain YOUR unique gut ecosystem needs. More to come soon. Hope this helps!

  4. hi dr.
    I m twenty years old female i have been diagnosed with celiac since 2012
    i have been on gluten free diet ,recently I experiencing symptoms including fatigue diarrhea and some times constipation . and bad hair loss . steatorrhea bad breath bloating ..
    I took antibiotic for two weeks the symptoms diminished then the symptoms come back
    please kindly suggest treatment with out antibiotic .
    thanks

    1. Hi Mena,
      I can’t recommend any treatment, I would speak with your doctor on this. You may want to see my post entitled ‘my SIBO treatment protocol’ or wait for my book wich has a comprehensive self help section. Hope this helps!

  5. hi dr.
    I m twenty years old female i have been diagnosed with celiac since 2012
    i have been on gluten free diet ,recently I experiencing symptoms including fatigue diarrhea and some times constipation . and bad hair loss . steatorrhea bad breath bloating ..
    I took antibiotic for two weeks the symptoms diminished then the symptoms come back
    please kindly suggest treatment with out antibiotic .
    thanks

    1. Hi Mena,
      I can’t recommend any treatment, I would speak with your doctor on this. You may want to see my post entitled ‘my SIBO treatment protocol’ or wait for my book wich has a comprehensive self help section. Hope this helps!

  6. Hi dr.
    when we use anti microbial or antibiotic for sibo treatment does this effect gut flora and may cause another series condition and does sibo cause hair loss

    please please help

  7. Hi dr.
    when we use anti microbial or antibiotic for sibo treatment does this effect gut flora and may cause another series condition and does sibo cause hair loss

    please please help

  8. I’ve read a comment in connection with Citrobacter. It says that if somebody use Magnesium Citrat (I use Calm) daily basis it increase the amount of citrobacter with a huge amount and the SIBO symptoms became worse day by day. It is true?

    1. Hi Helga,
      I don’t think this is fully true, the gut in not as simple as 1 bacteria. Its an entire eco-system and so good gut health outcome relies upon improving the eco-system. Hope this helps.

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