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Nutrition & Fitness Newsletter

Prebiotics, Probiotics and Your Microbiome

A popular topic these days is the gut microbiome, also known as gut flora, the balance of various strains of bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract.  You've probably seen the yogurt commercials promoting probiotics or the live cultures to help with constipation or digestive health.  These probiotics are what contributes to the health and balance of your microbiome.  Prebiotics are what feeds the beneficial gut flora so they can reproduce and multiply.  There are many ways to improve your microbiome - the mix of good and bad bacteria that populate in your digestive tract.  The research supports a diversity of various strains of bacteria are key to a healthy microbiome.  A diet of probiotic and prebiotic food sources will support a diverse and abundant microbiome.  Let's explore why this important for your overall health and how to improve your microbiome.



  • Immune Function— Since 70% of our immune cells reside in the gut, which is greater than those circulating through-out our body, the gut is the first line of defense for preventing illness.  The microbiome lets the immune system know what is harmful and when we need protection.
  • Digestion and Nutrient Absorption—Various digestive problems such as diarrhea and constipation can occur with an imbalance of good and bad bacteria.  When digestion is improved, nutrient absorption is enhanced from the foods we eat.  In addition, fat metabolism can be changed by the balance of the microbiome examples are reduced fat absorption and increased fat excretion in the stool or vice-a-versa.  Less fat absorption is desirable for better weight control and cardiovascular health.
  • Appetite—Many gut hormones are affected by the microbiome and those that manage your appetite can be altered, resulting in weight gain or weight loss.  Consider how your stomach feels when you feel hungry.  A balanced microbiome could prevent obesity or over-eating.
  • Mood Regulation and Memory— Via what is called the gut - brain axis, the brain and the digestive tract are in constant communication through neuroactive compounds produced from gut bacteria.  These compounds help to regulate emotions.  Alternatively, recent research is showing that changes or disruptions in the microbiome may contribute to Alzheimer's disease or dementia.


Prebiotics are found in many high fiber food sources, when eaten they are fermented and used to feed the gut bacteria so they can reproduce.  Most high fiber foods are good sources of prebiotic fiber.  Examples of these foods are vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes such as peas and beans.  Generally, eating a diet high in naturally occurring fiber found in whole foods will support and feed a healthy microbiome.  Those whose diet is low in fiber tend to have a less diverse and poorly populated gut flora.  Feed your flora with a high fiber diet!



Besides a high fiber diet as a way to contribute to the diversity of the microbiome, eat foods containing live cultures too.  These can be found in foods such as yogurt, a yogurt-type drink called "kefir", fermented pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi.  Be aware that some pickled foods are not fermented and have only been soaked or processed in vinegar, meaning they don't have the live cultures.   Additionally, some yogurts and other foods with live cultures can be high in sugar which may not successfully contribute to the gut bacteria even though they have live cultures.  Consider adding healthy fermented foods to your diet in order to enrich the existing microbiome.


Probiotic dietary supplements are another source of live cultures.  These are especially beneficial if you've taken antibiotics which can significantly reduce gut flora.  Since there is such a wide selection of probiotic supplements on the market it would be advisable to consult a healthcare professional to determine the best probiotic supplement for you.


Here are few reasons to see a nutritionist/personal trainer/health coach: improve your microbiome, assess nutrient intake, disease prevention through evidence-based diet, and exercise, maximize exercise performance, improve sleep quality, enhance mental clarity, optimize digestion and nutrient absorption, establish long-term healthy habits, meal planning for a whole foods diet and eat in a way to sustain the planet.  Please consider Sheri for nutrition counseling and/or fitness appointments to help you develop a healthier lifestyle for you and the planet. 


Processed Foods and Weight Gain

Since the obesity epidemic our food system has changed dramatically, a recent study focused on whether this is related to easy access to heavily processed or ultra-processed foods.  A few examples of ultra-processed foods are sodas, salty snacks, chicken nuggets, instant soups and white bread.  In this study, one group was given meals of heavily processed foods and the other group was given unprocessed foods.  Both groups had access to twice as much food as they could eat and each group was offered foods that were equivalent in sugar, fat, salt, protein and fiber.  Interestingly enough, the processed food group consumed 500 more calories per day than the unprocessed food group.  Want to manage your calories better?  Stick with an unprocessed food diet such as a whole foods diet!

Sheri is a Certified Nutritionist with a master's degree in nutrition, with over 15 years of clinical counseling experience, an ACE-certified Personal Trainer with advanced certifications in medical exercise, senior fitness and health coaching.  All nutrition consultations include exercise guidance, dietary analysis and meal plans to meet your individual lifestyle, calorie and nutritional needs.

Free introductory 15-minute appointments are also available.

To schedule an appointment with Sheri Mar, email:  or call:  206.789.6440

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