Eat More Plant Fiber

Most of the people I see in my gastroenterology practice have dysbiosis (microbial imbalance), usually because of too many antibiotics. Some have serious autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis; others are dealing with brain fog, thinning hair, bloating and gas; while frequent colds and sinus infections are the main manifestation in others.

You could make the argument that from the moment we take our first breath and are summarily doused in bactericidal cleansers in a sterile hospital environment, we’re in an uphill battle against microbial disruption. But for those of us unlucky enough to be formula fed who miss out on the microbe boosting human milk oligosaccharides in breast milk; or whose microbes battle it out on the playground against triclosan in hand sanitizers; or who eat commercially produced animal products filled with growth promoting but microbe depleting antibiotics; there is good news: you can change your microbiome quickly and efficiently with one simple intervention – eat more plant fiber! Studies show that within just two days of switching to a plant-filled diet, your microbiome starts to shift, with higher amounts of anti-inflammatory microbes present, and lower amounts of those associated with diseases like colitis.

But here’s the thing – you need to eat lots more plant fiber. More than you and me and most people in America are used to eating. Unprocessed plant fiber morning, noon, and night. The simplest way to do this is what I call my 1-2-3 Rule: eat at least one vegetable at breakfast, two at lunch, and three at dinner. There are lots of ways to accomplish this: a smoothie with kale or a spinach omelet for breakfast; salad with chopped raw veggies for lunch; steamed asparagus plus a salad of lettuce and cucumbers with dinner. The 1-2-3 Rule is a great way to make sure you’re getting enough dietary fiber without getting bogged down in the details, and focusing on building your meal around plants will help you think about meat as a side dish rather than the main event—a great microbe-boosting strategy and one of the most potent weapons in the fight against dysbiosis.

By: Dr. Robynne Chutkan