The key to gut microbiome health – diversity, diversity and even more diversity!!

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In my work with kids on the Autism spectrum, many, many times it comes back to the gut-brain connection. It’s common for kids who come in to have a combination of diarrhoea, constipation and ongoing tummy pain.

Then when we look at gut health history we see things like reflux, colic and projectile vomiting – all signs the gut hasn’t been right all along. When the gut isn’t right:

  • the immune system is prone to dysfunction leading to lots of coughs, colds and ear infections
  • food sensitivities can develop – excessive mucous points towards a dairy sensitivity – removing dairy often resolves asthma
  • leaky gut and gut dysbiosis can be ongoing
  • We can have an opiate effect from gluten/casein which causes many kids to be ‘spaced out’ and ‘in their own world’
  • Tummy pain is there a lot of the time – watch for your child bending over tables, chairs and lounges – this is a sign of tummy discomfort/pan
  • Mood swings and aggressive behaviour can be from unfriendly bugs in the gut
  • PANS/PANDAS can develop

Research into the gut microbiome is pointing towards a decrease in diversity being a root cause of poor gut health.
Studies show each person’s gut microbiome is unique and has over 1000 different groups of organisms. A study of a native tribe in Peru showed they had over 4000 different groups of organisms, which means the groups in our gut are only ¼ the amount of the Peruvian natives.

Putting it another way, our western diet and lifestyle has lead to a decrease of around 75% in the groups of organisms in the gut. It’s thought that a loss of diversity leads to poor health of gut cells and a tendency to inflammation. Inflammation underpins many ‘western diseases” and affects moods as well as brain growth, development and function.

When the diversity is down this leaves room for the more unfriendly gut organisms to thrive – exactly what we don’t want. Our western diet which is often low in fibre actually starves them and they die.

So how do we increase diversity in our gut microbiome?

What we have to do is feed the good bugs. So this means lots of food high in fibre, ie plant based foods… so here’s some to work on. Try smoothies, homemade ice blocks (mixing fruit with coconut cream is yummy), pureeing and hiding in whatever you can. It’s also very important to vary the food, researchers are saying to aim for 40 different types of plant food each week.

Just a tip – it’s important not to overdo fruit due to high amounts of sugar. Rotation is key. Also keep in mind that each child is different and some kids are sensitive to salicylates which limit the amount of fruit and veg in the diet.
Here’s some foods that are known to improve microbiome diversity. Don’t freak out just work on adding them gradually, even if it’s just one at a time.

Polyphenol rich food. eg blueberries, cherries, blackberries, plums, raspberries, red apples, strawberries, flaxseed meal, hazelnuts, black tahini, carrots especially purple ones, red cabbage, red onions, red and black rice, red and black quinoa, black olives.

Prebiotic rich foods which are high in fructooligosaccharides/inulin (FOS) and galactooligosaccharides (GOS) – garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, burdock/chicory/dandelion root, legumes, fresh beans, beetroot. Broccoli, cauliflower, sunflower and pumpkins seeds, LSA mix. Brown rice, carrots, black currants, dark cocoa, almonds, green tea.

Foods high in resistant starch eg legumes – kidney beans, adzuki beans, red lentils, bananas – the greener they are the more resistant starch they contain, banana flour is high in resistant starch and is available on line, cassava, sweet potato, GF oats, cashew nuts and home-made cashew milk.

Partially hydrolysed guar gum (PHGG) is a well-tolerated fibre supplement that has research showing it increases gut microbiome diversity as well as regulating constipation and diarrhoea. Occasionally it can lead to some constipation in the first 5 days then the stool normalises. It may be available from your practitioner or can be ordered from iherb. Click here. If you haven’t ordered from iherb before use my code SLV239 for a $5 discount. It tastes OK, mixes easily with water or into food.

Partially hydrolysed guar gum

Need help with autism, behaviour or learning difficulties?

Call now for your introductory consultation and see what can be done to help your child.

Contact Julie on 07 5518 7607 or through the contact page of this website.

Julie Damant

Autism Naturopath

2/1846 Lower Gold Coast Highway, Suite B, Burleigh Heads, QLD. 4220

07 5518 7607


About the Author:

Julie Damant is the leading Autism Naturopath in Australia, specialising in Autism, ADHD, Aspergers, PDD, learning difficulties, allergies and children’s health. Julie is a degree qualified Naturopath, has completed specialised training with the MINDD Foundation, Michael Sichel and numerous post graduate courses in Naturopathy. “I know improvement is possible, I have seen it, and will continue to see it as families make the changes that are required to help their child. Working together we can, and will make a difference. I look forward to meeting you.”
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