8 Simple Steps To Balancing Your Microbiome

We love talking gut health here at mindbodygreen, so when we saw this book, The Complete Prebiotic and Probiotic Health Guide: A Vegetarian Plan for Balancing Your Gut Flora, gastroenterologist Dr. Maitreyi Raman, we wanted to learn more. Here's her simple eight-step plan for getting all that good bacteria up and thriving.

Mariah is a 52-year-old woman who came to my clinic five years ago with low hemoglobin and a concern about the potential for iron-deficiency anemia. She complained about some mild constipation and generalized fatigue.

She expressed some anxiety about developing colon cancer since her mother was diagnosed at age 50 with the disease. She was also newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I recommended a colonoscopy, given her family history and evidence of iron-deficiency anemia.

Fortunately, we discovered only one polyp, which was benign, and I recommended a follow-up colonoscopy in five years. Mariah also requested a nutrition prescription to improve the course of her diabetes, lower the risk of developing colon cancer, and prevent further metabolic diseases, such as high cholesterol and heart disease.

I prescribed an eight-step biotic-balanced program. I referred her to a registered dietitian to reinforce these principles and to learn about recording her intake in a food diary.

Five years later, I saw Mariah on a follow-up visit. She was a completely new person. She had lost 18 pounds. Her diabetes was controlled, her cholesterol was within normal limits, her fatigue had cleared up, and she was following a very active and healthy lifestyle.

Her bowel movements were regular and she had just completed her first marathon. Mariah ascribed her new health status to adopting a vegetarian diet and to reducing her intake of foods that are processed, high in sugar, and high in salt.

She particularly emphasized the benefits of a high-fiber diet in helping her with weight loss and reducing her dependency on medications to maintain good blood-sugar control. Here's the program I prescribed for her:

The 8-Step Biotic-Balancing Program

1. Follow a balanced diet rich in plant-based foods. Determine which vegetarian foods you enjoy and eat them regularly.

2. Choose vegetarian foods from all food groups:

  • Whole grains
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Eggs
  • Dairy (like yogurt)
  • Healthy vegetable oils (like olive)

3. Include probiotic-rich foods in your diet on a daily basis. Try:

  • incorporating 1 to 2 cups of yogurt into your diet daily.
  • adding kefir and sauerkraut to your regular routine.
  • enjoying miso soup.

4. Strive for 25 to 35 grams of dietary fiber daily through the intake of:

  • Whole grains
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Nuts and seeds

5. Keep your pantry stocked with prebiotic-rich foods.

6. Consider fiber supplements if fiber intake is still lacking despite these suggestions.

7. Ensure adequate intake of iron-rich foods, and eat or drink vitamin C with them.

8. Consider a vitamin B12 supplement if you are a vegan. If you eat eggs and drink milk, you likely do not need a vitamin B12 supplement.