Microbiome and immunity for Dunville Pharmacy newsletter

News | 10 Nov 2020

Your immune system depends on your gut

Immune health is a hot topic and you may be aware that your gut health plays a role. But did you know that your gut microbiome, made up of billions of different yeast, bacteria and other microorganisms, is responsible for up to 70% of your immune health? What you eat can hugely influence your gut for the better or for the worse. Try the tips below to give your microbiome and your immune system some support.

Feed your bacteria with prebiotics

Prebiotics are the new buzzword in gut health – the undigestible fibre that provides food for our beneficial bacteria. Oats, apples (with the skin), garlic, onions, bananas, flax seeds and asparagus are particularly good sources that are easy to include. Eating at least 5 portions of vegetables, 2 portions of fruit, choosing wholegrains and eating one portion of nuts or seeds daily will help to provide that all important prebiotic fuel in your diet. If you have inflammatory bowel disease or another gut issue that restricts your fibre intake, try introducing small amounts at a time and limit raw fruit and veg.


Watch your sugar intake

Eating a diet high in sugar has many downsides, including a potential reduction in our beneficial bacteria. It’s a good idea to think 80:20 and limit your treats to a couple of days per week e.g. the weekend. Watch also where sugar may be sneaking in. Common culprits include cereals, yoghurts and sauces, with some yoghurts having as many as 12 tsp sugar per portion. Bear in mind that fruit juice also counts towards your added sugar limit, so dilute with water or sparkling water, especially if serving to children.

Eat some fermented foods

Fermented food contains some of the beneficial bacteria that contribute towards a healthy microbiome. In Ireland, yoghurt is our traditional fermented food. We always recommend natural yoghurt to avoid the sugars and sweeteners found in flavoured varieties. Just sweeten yourself with fruit, jam or a little honey. If you are dairy free, then try natural coconut, almond or soya yoghurt instead. Try our apple cinnamon overnight oats recipe for a healthy breakfast boost. Many other fermented foods and drinks are widely available including sauerkraut, kimchi, miso paste, kefir and kombucha. Its best to include a variety as each one includes a different range of beneficial bacteria. We also recommend introducing these in very small amounts e.g 1 tbsp sauerkraut, 75ml kombucha, especially if you have sensitive digestion as they can initially cause bloating.


Try a probiotic

Some of us may benefit from an added boost by taking a probiotic supplement, especially after antibiotics, a bout of thrush or an illness. There are a wide variety of probiotics available and different probiotics suit different people. Most probiotic supplements are now freeze dried to preserve the bacteria and do not need to be refrigerated. Many will contain both pre- and probiotics, which is usually helpful. However, if you find that your probiotic is causing bloating or if you have been diagnosed with SIBO, try switching to a brand without prebiotics like Biokult. Other ranges like Optibac include different probiotics for different health issues e.g. thrush or bloating. Children’s microbiomes are different to those of adults, so if looking for a probiotic for a child, chose one that is age-appropriate. If in doubt, ask for advice.

Heather Leeson. Heather is Senior Nutritionist at Glenville Nutrition www.glenvillenutrition.ie and divides her time between clinic patients and corporate workshops and talks. She is also the Nutritionist on Virgin Media’s weekend breakfast show.

Apple cinnamon overnight oats recipe see it here