What Is the Microbiome Diet (and Should I Try It)?

the microbiome diet

You already know that your body is filled with trillions of bacteria that can have a big impact on your health. (Need a refresher? Find out more here.) But did you know that what you eat can affect the balance of this bacteria? Here’s the skinny on microbiome diets.  

Firstly, what is a microbiome?

“The microbiome is the collection of trillions of microorganisms that live in and on our body,” nutritional scientist Dr. Tracy Shafizadeh tells us. “The majority of microorganisms are bacteria; some good and some bad.” And while these microorganisms live all over the body, recent research has revealed that the ones found in your gut (aka the gut microbiome) are especially important to your overall health.

And why is the gut microbiome so important?

Surprise: The gut microbiome is related to conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, colitis and acid reflux. “A lot of research going on right now is connecting gut health with autoimmune disease, neurodegenerative disorder, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity,” explains Dr. Erika Angle, biochemist and CEO of gut microbiome test Ixcela. “The gut microbiome is such a hot area now because people are realizing it’s not just its own system. It’s actually linked to your brain health, emotional health, cardiovascular health and other systems, as well.” Whoa.

Okay, so what exactly is the microbiome diet?

A microbiome diet is about creating an environment in which the good kind of bacteria can thrive, leading to better digestion, overall health and, yep, weight loss. There are a few different variations of microbiome diets, but one of the most popular ones (simply dubbed “The Microbiome Diet”) is a three-step program created by integrative medicine and intestinal health specialist Dr. Raphael Kellman. In her program, the first phase (which lasts 21 days) involves using diet to remove bad bacteria and increase good bacteria while the second phase (four weeks) is about giving your metabolism a boost. The final step in the plan teaches how to continue improving your gut health for life.  

What can you eat on a microbiome diet?

 Non-starchy fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats and fermented foods like pickles and kombucha. Other important parts of the diet including taking probiotics and eating plenty of fiber.

Sounds pretty good. So, what Can’t I eat?

Well, it kind of depends which microbiome diet protocol you follow, but in general, you’ll want to avoid processed foods, sugar, eggs, soy, gluten, dairy and yeast. And on the Microbiome Diet, even foods like dried fruit, brown rice, potatoes and peanuts are off-limits because of their high sugar content. (But don’t worry—after a few weeks of healing your gut, you’re allowed to add some of these foods back into rotation.) 

Should I try it?

Dr. Charles Passler, nutritionist and founder of Pure Change, breaks it down for us. “If you have an imbalance of friendly and unfriendly bacteria in your intestines (your microbiome), then you’ll have a much higher risk of developing problems like bloating, irritable bowel, colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, skin conditions, immune suppression, weight gain and even depression.” The Microbiome Diet could help with these issues, Dr. Passler tells us. He also likes the eating plan for its lack of calorie counting and inclusion of plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. 

Any downsides?

Cutting back on sugar and the processed stuff is one thing, but eliminating other foods like dairy and gluten when you don’t have an intolerance or allergy is a little more controversial. Our advice? If you’re concerned about health issues or your microbiome, speak with a doctor or nutritionist first before making any changes to your diet. 

What the Heck Is the Elimination Diet (and Should I Try It)?

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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...