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  • Writer's pictureDr. Hillary Roland, ND

10 Ways to Improve Your Microbiome

Our bodies are full of trillions of bacteria and other microbes called the microbiome, and the majority of them are located in your large intestine. The gut microbiome plays a very important role in your health. An imbalance could contribute to weight gain, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and other disorders. Learn how you can take control of your gut health!

Photo of woman's stomach by Kat Jayne from Pexels

According to the National Institute of Health’s Human Microbiome Project, the human microbiome is defined as the collection of microbes - bacteria, viruses, and single-cell eukaryotes - that inhabits the human body.

Microbes in a healthy human adult are estimated to outnumber human cells by a ratio of ten to one, and the total number of genes in the microbiome exceeds the number of genes in the human genome by a factor of at least 200!

Even though microbial cells are only one-tenth to one-hundredth the size of a human cell, they may account for up to five pounds of adult body weight. The more we learn about this body ecology, the more we realize this collection of microbes plays an essential role in our health and well-being.

Here are a few ways that the microbiome contributes to your health:

  • It helps control your immune system. By communicating with immune cells, the gut microbiome can control how your immune system works. It can amp up and amp down inflammatory responses to infection. Many unfavorable microbes have been shown to correlate to auto-immune disease and other immune disorders.

  • It helps control your weight. Several well-known studies have shown that the gut microbiome differed completely between identical twins, one of whom was obese and one of whom was healthy. These characteristics could be passed on to mice through fecal transplants suggesting the flora controls fat metabolism.

  • It affects gut health. Many intestinal disease including IBS, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease have been associated with dysbiosis in the gut. Additionally, many symptoms including bloating, cramps, abdominal pain and constipation are due to dysbiosis. This is because the microbes produce a lot of gas and inflammatory chemicals as part of their metabolism.

  • It may contribute to heart health. A recent study in 1,500 people found that the gut microbiome played an important role in promoting “good” cholesterol and controlling triglycerides.

  • It affects brain health and mood. Certain species of bacteria produce brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. In fact, as much of 80% of serotonin is produced in the gut. The gut is closely connected to the brain through millions of nerves. The gut bacteria affects brain health by helping control the messages that get sent to the brain through these nerves.

Here are ten things you can do to improve your microbiome:

  1. Eat a diverse range of foods. This can lead to a diverse microbiome, which is an indicator of good gut health.

  2. Limit sugar and artificial sweeteners. Some evidence has shown that diets high in sugar or containing aspartame can stimulate the growth of unhealthy bacteria like Enterobacteriaceae.

  3. Eat fermented foods such as sauerkraut, fermented veggies, yogurt and kefir. They contain healthy bacteria like Lactobacilli and can reduce the amount of disease-causing microbs.

  4. Eat prebiotic foods, which are high in soluble fiber and stimulate the growth of good bacteria. These foods include artichokes, asparagus, oats and apples.

  5. Eat whole grains. They contain fiber and beneficial carbs like beta glucan which are digested by gut bacteria.

  6. Eat more plants. Vegetarian diets have been shown to reduce levels of disease-causing bacteria such as E. Coli as well as inflammation and cholesterol.

  7. Eat foods rich in polyphenols, which are plant compounds found in red wine, green tea, dark chocolate, olive oil and whole grains. They are broken down in the gut to stimulate growth of good bacteria.

  8. Try a probiotic supplement. Probiotics are live bacteria that help replenish good bacteria in the gut after a state of dysbiosis.

  9. Take antibiotics sparingly. Antibiotics kill many good bacteria along with the bad in the gut microbiome. When the good bacteria are gone this allows problematic bacteria to colonize. Replacing good bacteria with probiotics can help prevent post-antibiotic intestinal infections.

  10. Breastfeed for at least six months if possible. Breastfeeding is important for the development of the microbiome. Studies show that children who consume breast milk have more beneficial Bifidobacteria than those who are bottle-fed.


In our Fermented Foods Workshop with Dr. Hillary on Saturday, April 20, 2019 you will learn to make sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables. You will receive multiple recipe cards and will prepare a fermented veggie of your choice to take home. We will discuss how to incorporate more fermented foods into your diet, and review the recent research on the benefits of probiotics and healthy gut bacteria.

Register online via Wellness Living! Cost is $45 per person; max 8 participants.


If you have questions about your microbiome, diet, or intestinal issues, schedule a new patient consult and we'll discuss your specific concerns.

Not ready to book an appointment? Schedule a free 15 minute introductory consultation via phone to learn more about how an experienced Naturopathic Doctor can help you live your best life.



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