Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson

Building a healthy gut microbiome

7/12/2021 by Rebecca Waletzko


Your gastrointestinal tract is made up of trillions of microorganisms that make up the gut microbiome. These microorganisms can be generally classified as healthy or unhealthy. 

Gut health can be defined by a normal composition of the microbiome, adequate digestion and absorption of food, the absence of gut illnesses, and an effective immune status. Emerging research is helping the medical world understand more about the gut microbiome, suggesting that the microbiome can be altered by what is eaten. 

This is important because when the gut microbiome is not balanced, disease risk is higher. A gut rich in healthy bacteria can reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as obesity and colon cancer. 

How to build a healthy gut microbiome

Foods that help create a healthy gut microbiome are prebiotics and fiber, and probiotics and fermented foods. High-fiber diets containing prebiotics and probiotics promote a healthy gut microbiome. In contrast, diets high in fast food, sugar, processed foods and excessive alcohol can decrease gut health. 

Try to include these foods in your diet: 

  • Fiber and prebiotics 
    These are nondigestible substances that feed healthy gut bacteria. Sources include fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains. For example, include foods such as artichokes, asparagus, bananas, barley, beans, berries, chicory root, flax, garlic, leafy greens, oatmeal, onion, rye and wheat in your diet.
  • Fermented foods and probiotics 
    These bacteria feed off of fiber and prebiotics, and aid in digestion. Sources include buttermilk, fermented vegetables, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, sourdough, tempeh and yogurt with live cultures. 

These foods may not be appropriate for everyone. Talk with your dietitian to see if they are right for you. 

Rachel Waletzko is a dietetic intern at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. She is from northern Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Her areas of interest are pediatrics and ICUs.