#91 What Makes A Healthy Gut - with Dr. Alena Pribyl

The Holistic Nutritionists Podcast


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"In trying to identify signs of a healthy gut and linking them with specific microbiome bacteria species, we've discovered it's almost impossible to define a single healthy gut microbiome. But an exciting trend that's emerging from research is understanding exactly what healthy gut microbiomes are actually doing in healthy people. We're tending to see that healthy people often have a high diversity of bacteria in their gut, which means they have a lot of different types of bacterial species."

Dr. Alena Pribyl | Senior Scientist & Research Officer for Microba Tweet This!

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In Episode 91 of The Holistic Nutritionists Podcast, Natalie Douglas and her guest, Dr. Alena Pribyl (Senior Scientist & Research Officer for Microba), discuss the signs of a healthy gut and how to replenish good bacteria after antibiotics.

  • What are the characteristics of an “ideal” or healthy gut?
  • What happens to the bacteria when we take Antibiotics?
  • Are antibiotics the only thing that alters our microbiome, or are there other drugs or hormones that have the ability to change the microbiome?
  • Can we recover species lost after Antibiotics?
  • The difference between a probiotic and a prebiotic
  • Probiotics – broad-spectrum or strain-specific?
  • Impact of carbohydrate restriction on the microbiome
  • The best “diet” for a healthy gut

Dr. Alena Pribyl
Senior Scientist & Research Officer for Microba

Intro 0:00
Hello and welcome to The Holistic Nutritionists Podcast, with your hosts Natalie K. Douglas, Thyroid Healer, and Kate Callaghan, The Holistic Nutritionist. Nat and Kate are degree-qualified dietitians and nutritionists, certified fitness instructors, speakers, and authors. If you love unfiltered banter, unedited bloopers, and authentic heart-sharing, then we are your ladies! Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and get ready for our latest tips on living your healthiest life possible.

Natalie K. Douglas 0:39
Hello, everyone! So good to be back doing some more interviews this week. And I was actually lucky enough to sit down with Dr. Pribyl who is the Senior Scientist and Research Officer with biotech company Microba, a leader in the analysis of the gut microbiome. She has expertise in human microbiome research, microbiology, and stress physiology in fish. She also has a passion for science communication to support science-informed decision-making. Dr. Pribyl received her PhD in Fishery Science in 2010 from Oregon State University. Was a National Research Council postdoctoral fellow and was a CCST, Science and Technology Policy fellow before moving to Australia in 2015, where she started working at the Australian Centre for eco genomics at the University of Queensland in the area of the human microbiome. She has presented at many conferences and seminars to science and laymen audiences. And I, as you all know, love the gut, I love poo, I love everything about analyzing gut tests, and this is a really great and hopefully practical conversation with her about more of the practical aspects and the ins and outs of what actually makes someone’s gut a healthy gut. So I hope you do enjoy the podcast and get something out of it. The only other thing I wanted to, two other things actually, wanted to mention before we jump in is one that the quality of the audio at the beginning is a little bit sketchy but I promise after about five minutes in, it’s perfectly fine and there are no other major issues throughout the rest of the podcast. And the second thing I wanted to say is that we talk a lot about prebiotic foods in this podcast. And I want you guys to know that if you’re someone who eats these foods that we’re talking about in the podcast, and you’re experiencing a lot of gut discomfort or gut distress, please make sure that you work with a practitioner like myself or someone else who is really good with gut health and gut conditions to actually find out what’s driving that so that you can then be able to reintroduce these these prebiotic-rich foods for the benefit of your microbiome without the symptoms. So always listen to your body, get support, and enjoy the show. Alena, welcome to The Holistic Nutritionists Podcast. Thank you so much for being here. And what we love to start off our podcast with is a bit of a random question because it helps us get to know you a little bit better. And the one we want to ask is, what is your current morning routine?

Dr. Alena Pribyl 3:40
Ah, well, that’s actually a great question because I’ve had to switch it up lately. My former morning routine was usually I tried to go to the gym before work, and do a couple classes, and then quick shower, breakfast at work and get down to it. But as a result of our gyms being closed now and social distancing, it’s more now that I end up trying to go for a walk or jog just around my neighborhood first before heading into work.

Natalie K. Douglas

Dr. Alena Pribyl
But yeah, nothing too exciting.

Natalie K. Douglas 4:12
Yeah, I like it. Simple works, right? I’m I’m definitely like a morning mover too. I just like to get up and get out of the house or go to the gym or something like that. It just is a really nice way to start the day. So, I actually want to jump right in because we have a lot to get through. And I’m really excited to have you on the podcast to be able to pick your brain about this. And what I thought, where I thought we would start is just around what are the characteristics of an ideal or healthy gut because there’s so much information out there and it’s really quite confusing for a lot of people around what that actually means. So maybe from like a when you’re analyzing or looking at like a microbiome. What what’s helpful for it to look like?

Dr. Alena Pribyl 5:02
I agree. Yeah, on what is a healthy gut. And this is mostly because people have been trying to look at this from a taxonomic point of view. So basically trying to identify which species do you need to have in your gut to be, quote, healthy. And we’ve discovered that this is really an untenable problem because there are so many different types of species that you can have in your gut, it’s almost impossible, it will be impossible to define one healthy gut microbiome. But what’s been really exciting that’s been coming out in the research is to see that no matter what background you have, what does tend to be more consistent among people is what their gut microbiome is doing. So what all those different species of gut bacteria are actually doing in your gut. And so, from that, we’ve been able to identify some characteristics of what they’re doing that is associated with healthy people. And so, coming at it from that perspective, we tend to see that people that are healthy often have a high diversity of bacteria in their gut. And this means that they have a lot of different types of bacterial species. And those different bacterial species are fairly evenly spread out, you don’t really see any one species being overgrown, it’s a pretty good, even distribution of who’s there. The other important characteristics that are really coming out as being important for good health is the ability of your bacteria to produce these really important compounds called Short-Chain Fatty Acids. Now there’s three short-chain fatty acids that our gut bacteria produce, primarily, these are called acetate, propionate, and butyrate. And butyrate, has been found to be incredibly useful for improving gut health and overall health because we’ve seen that it can suppress inflammation throughout the body, it will help maintain our gut cell barrier to make sure that no pathogenic or toxin substances can cross that gut cell barrier. It’s been shown to help regulate appetite, it’s been shown to help stimulate the production of serotonin by our gut cells. And so it’s doing all these really important functions that help keep us overall very healthy. And so, having a good number of bacteria that can produce that really important substance has been shown to be very strongly connected with healthy people. We also tend to see in healthy people, that they’re not going to have too many bacteria that produce substances that have been linked with inflammation. So our gut bacteria can produce a whole bunch of different substances. And some of those, such as one that actually has been getting a fair amount of media attention lately is called trimethylamine. This is one that’s been linked very strongly with heart disease. There’s also substances ones such as lipopolysaccharides, that can stimulate our immune cells to create an inflammatory reaction. And so, people that are healthy tend to not have many bacteria that can produce those more proinflammatory substances. And then we also see people don’t tend to have too many bacteria from this group called proteobacteria. And proteobacteria is the group that many people might be familiar with because it houses some of those famous pathogenic bacteria like your Campylobacters, your salmonellas, E. coli, klebsiella. And so usually, don’t want to have too many of those types of bacteria and have it in your gut. And then finally, we often also see that they’ll have a low level of species that should be inhabiting other areas of the body. So one area in particular that we often see is that in some people, such as people that might take a lot of proton pump inhibitor medications that lower your stomach acid, they might tend to have higher levels of bacteria that you typically find that should be living in the mouth. And that’s because of bacteria now are able to get through that stomach acid barrier and find a place to live in your gut.

Natalie K. Douglas 9:07
Wow. That’s fascinating, isn’t it? And then, and I think proton pump inhibitors in particular, are something that so many people don’t, like, aren’t aware of the effects not just on your gut microbiome, but on so many other areas of your health. And they’re, you know, I would say in my experience, just giving out like candy in some instances, and I think it’s yeah, a real problem. And thank you so much for sharing what a healthy gut looks like. I think that it highlights the reason why testing can be so important and also helpful because what you find is not information that you can’t influence through diet, and lifestyle, and supplements, and all that kind of stuff, which is, is really exciting. Speaking of things that can influence our gut, a common question that I get is what happens to the bacteria in our gut when we take antibiotics because there’s a few different theories out there. Some people just say, I’ll just take a probiotic supplement after it and you’ll be right. Other people tend to say that it takes up to a year to recover your microbiome, and then there’s some information out there saying it can never be recovered. So what’s the accurate answer to that one?

Dr. Alena Pribyl 10:28
Yeah, well, um, it’s, it’s always complicated, and it’s going to be very person specific and dependent on your history, medical history, etc. Um, you know, the important thing to make sure that everybody is aware of is that you know, antibiotics do play an important role in current medical treatments. And so if you do need to take them, you definitely should be taking them. But it’s really that unnecessary use of antibiotics, that’s starting to create a lot of problems. And that’s such as when you know, people have a cold, which is caused by a virus, and then they end up taking antibiotics, which wouldn’t do anything to impact your cold because it’s not bacteria that’s causing that. So what we do see when people are taking antibiotics, most of the research is really been done on the short courses of antibiotics. So ones that are like 5 to 10 days. And the biggest problems that arise is that we typically are taking the broad-spectrum antibiotics, which means that they’re going to target a wide range of bacteria. And if you have an infection, and the physician doesn’t know what the cause of that infection is, that is the best choice because you want to make sure you get that pathogen. However, you know, if you don’t need the antibiotics, if you are taking them just to get rid of a virus, then the problem with that is that you end up wiping out all of your beneficial resident gut bacteria as well. And so we do see that when you take a short course of antibiotics, it will often take about one to two months for the majority of your gut bacteria to recover. But even then, the studies are also showing that there’s always going to be a few species that don’t return even after a couple of years. So the basic answer is that yes, antibiotics are going to severely reduce your gut bacteria. They will recover if you’re typically a healthy person, and you don’t take antibiotics very often but it will take a couple of months. There have been some studies that have shown that to raise the question about whether or not you should take probiotics while you’re taking antibiotics. And that’s really kind of going to be very specific to the person. And so, there have been systematic meta-analysis that have shown that for people that are hospitalized or immunocompromised, that often end up having to take antibiotics more long term, that probiotics during that antibiotic period can be beneficial and it can help actually reduce the chances of getting antibiotic-associated diarrhea. However, if you’re a help normally healthy person, there was a recent study that showed if you take probiotics while you’re taking antibiotics, that could actually prolong the length of time it takes your native gut bacteria to return. And that’s because if you are taking probiotics when you are taking antibiotics, you’ve got a lot of extra real estate there. So you can get short term colonization in some people when you’re taking those probiotics, and that’s going to inhibit your normal gut bacteria from growing back. So it just depends on is that something that you want to have being displaced or not? You know, so for people that are immunocompromised, it might be beneficial. But for people that are otherwise normally healthy, it might not be necessary. And it’s really more of a personal choice, I think at this point in time until we get further data on this.

Natalie K. Douglas 13:53
Yeah, it’s that’s so fascinating, isn’t it? And it’s, it’s such an area that is full of change and new information always coming. And it’s I think we only know like a drop in the ocean worth about the microbiome, even though it feels like we know so much. There’s also so much we don’t know, but I love that. And I hadn’t heard that before in terms of the research around taking antibiotics and probiotics concurrently. So that’s really fascinating. What about just out of curiosity, what about taking prebiotics at the same time to try and preserve your bacteria species that are there? Would that serve any purpose do you think?

Dr. Alena Pribyl 14:31
Yeah, so I think actually, that’s probably going to be the best strategy while you’re taking antibiotics is just to make sure that you’re continuing to eat that healthy diet and maintaining, you know, the consumption of those beneficial food sources. They’re going to help feed your beneficial gut bacteria. And so that’s going to be the fastest way to help your gut bacteria recover is just to make sure you’re feeding it the right foods. You know, if you have a real junk diet after antibiotics, you’re going to be missing out on getting all those beneficial bacteria to come back and colonize your gut. And you know, it’s possible, you might be increasing the risk of getting, you know, some of the more non-beneficial bacteria in happening. And so, you know, having that healthy diet of fruits and vegetables and whole grains is going to go a long way to help improve your gut microbiome after antibiotics.

Natalie K. Douglas 15:21
Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s fascinating, isn’t it? Because there is so much that diet therapy can actually do, but it’s very easy just to go go to the pill, which they are absolutely necessary sometimes. And I am definitely a prescriber of pro and prebiotics but I also think that we forget about the humble diet, sometimes and our prebiotic-rich foods. Before we move on to that more, I actually wanted to just backtrack slightly, because we talked about antibiotics, and also proton pump inhibitors, for example, is having an impact on the gut microbiome. But is there any other drugs or hormones that common, that we know commonly have the ability to change the microbiome?

Dr. Alena Pribyl 16:05
Yeah, this is actually a very interesting area that’s really emerging right now in the gut microbiome research, and it’s that probably most any drug that we take is likely going to have some effect on our gut microbiome. And so if you think about it, you know, most of our gut microbiome is really situated, you know, in our colon. And so whatever our body is not able to absorb is going to get passed down through our colon. So a lot of the drugs that we take, you know, they’re not completely absorbed by our body. And so they end up getting passed to the colon, where they’re made available to all the bacteria down there. And those bacteria have literally hundreds of thousands of different enzymes that they can produce that can break down any number of different types of substances, including different types of drugs. And so pretty much most drugs that we take, there’s probably going to be an enzyme that our gut bacteria can produce that are going to be able to help break that drug down. And what effect that ends up having on our gut microbiome is going to be really variable depending on the drug. But I mean, just for example, like with PPIs, obviously, we see that that results in people having a weakened stomach acid barrier. So you get more bacteria that typically wouldn’t inhabit the gut, inhabiting the gut, you get, you know, all those bacteria that would normally inhabit the mouth. But we also see, you know, there’s different types of bacteria that we found now. Some species can actually use steroids as a fuel source.

Natalie K. Douglas
Oh, fascinating.

Dr. Alena Pribyl
So if we end up taking, you know, extra steroids that our body isn’t absorbing, and that makes it to our colon that might promote the growth of, you know, some particular species over others. And that’s typically what we’re going to be seeing with a lot of these drugs. On the positive side, we’ve been seeing Metformin, which is one of the main drugs that has been used to treat people with type two diabetes. And they found before they didn’t actually know why that drug worked. And now they’re finding that it actually seems to be effective as a result of changing the gut microbiome for the better or beneficially altering the gut microbiome. So if there’s a lot that we need to uncover in this but it is a fascinating area and I will just simply say that probably most anything that we take will have the chance of altering our gut microbiome. We just don’t know right now, you know, is that going to be a good thing or a bad thing yet?

Natalie K. Douglas 18:32
Hmm. Yeah, it’s, it’s so, so interesting, isn’t it? And I think it makes sense that anything we take is, is going to have an effect in some way. One that often comes up for me, is the pill like the oral contraceptive pill and, and the changes in the microbiome that happen as a result of of taking that. I think, across the board, that’s something that obviously everyone absolutely has the right to choose themselves but I always think that informed choices are important. And I think sometimes there isn’t as much information about things like the pill or PPIs that are given to patients to weigh out the pros and the cons. So it’s, it’s fascinating and thank you for bringing that to to the table and just making people aware of that a little bit more.

Dr. Alena Pribyl 19:23
Yeah, I just wanted to quickly mention too, that, you know, there’s still a lot of research that needs to be done and the area of how drugs are impacting our gut microbiome and the impacts of different drugs. And so, I think until we get better data around that, and more clinical trials that specifically look at that, it’s going to be hard to give people more information around how specific drugs might be impacting the gut microbiome. So like for things like antibiotics, there’s already a fair amount of research and PPIs but apart from that, there’s not a lot of research on other types of drugs, yet.

Natalie K. Douglas 20:00
Yeah, yeah, definitely more research needed. When it comes to probiotics and taking probiotics because a lot of people just take them sometimes not for any particular reason, just that they’ve heard they’re good. And a lot of, a lot of the time, it’s just a recommendation that we should just take broad-spectrum probiotics. But is that, is that what we should be choosing when we’re looking for a probiotic, or are we best to be more specific in terms of the species and strains for certain purposes? What’s, what’s the research say, and what’s your experience with that?

Dr. Alena Pribyl 0:41
Yeah, so the research really hasn’t found any evidence that taking general probiotics can provide a general health benefit. There have been a couple systematic and meta-analyses on this. And really, where you see the scientific evidence coming out is that it does appear there’s specific strains of probiotics that can help alleviate specific symptoms. But when you get out of matching the specific strain to help the specific symptom, there is no, there’s not a lot of evidence that just general probiotic use is going to have much of a benefit. So it’s really about doing your research, figuring out what do you need that probiotic to do for you? Do you need to help, you know, like, alleviate bloating or constipation or diarrhea, and then looking to see which strains have had clinical studies to show that they’re actually effective at alleviating those specific symptoms?

Natalie K. Douglas 1:37
Yeah, I wholeheartedly agree. I think that it’s it’s super important because and I think that it’s something that, at least in my experience in the circles that I guess I float around in now, practitioners are becoming more aware of this, and hopefully, passing that information on to their clients. And I think that the other thing that I’d love to clear up here with you as well, is just around probiotics, and then whether or not they actually stay in the gut, like once you finish taking them because a lot of like, there’s a little bit of misconception around when you take a probiotic, is it that you’ve taken it and now those species are going to be there forever, or if you want those species to continue being there? Do you have to feed them or do you have to keep taking the probiotic?

Dr. Alena Pribyl 2:30
Nat, It’s a really great question. And it’s a misconception, we get quite a lot here at Microba as well. So right now, the research really shows that for the most part, most probiotic strains that are commercially available are not ones that are going to colonize your gut. So there’s these are strains that don’t naturally occur in our gut, they’re ones that we know we’ve used historically to ferment dairy products or ferment foods. And they’ve been shown to have a benefit when you eat those fermented foods, but in terms of actually colonizing our gut, there’s very little evidence that they actually do stay for more than, you know, a few days to a couple of weeks’ time. And so we do consider probiotics to be transitory species. That’s not to say that they’re not providing a benefit while they’re transiting your gut. And so there has been research showing that, you know, they are providing a benefit, while they’re going through your gut, but the key is you have to keep taking them if you want to keep seeing that benefit. And the other part of that is that, you know, if you do get your gut microbiome analyzed, it’s usually very rare that you would actually even see those species showing up in your analysis, just because they are present at such a low abundance, and they are always transiting through. So unless you’ve taken a huge amount very recently, it’s usually unlikely that they would even show up in an analysis.

Natalie K. Douglas 3:53
Yeah, that’s fascinating, isn’t it? And and I do think that that’s something that is so commonly not understood. So thank you for clearing that up. I want to move back to speaking about prebiotics. We touched on them a little bit before. I love prebiotics and I have to admittedly say that I hadn’t always used them in practice until probably only the last three years or so have I really started to use them and favor them over probiotics in some instances. I definitely as you as you’ve alluded to like probiotics absolutely have their purpose specifically when you are matching the strain to the symptom or whatever you’re trying to treat. But prebiotics are really like unsung heroes of changing the gut microbiome. In terms of food, where do we actually find many of those prebiotic foods? So you mentioned fruits and vegetables and you mentioned grains if they’re anywhere elsewhere we would find them? And is there any particular foods that are more rich in prebiotics than others?

Dr. Alena Pribyl 4:59
Yeah. So, exactly, probiotics I think are, as you said, definitely the unsung heroes. And just to spruik them even more how important they are is the fact that, you know, tons of research now has really shown that the way, the best way that you can impact your gut microbiome is through diet, that diet is one of the number one influencing factors for who’s making up the who are those species that are living in your gut. And so, you know, you can do that so easily, you know, by including, you know, basically by helping improve your diet. And prebiotics are the best way to do that because that’s the favorite food of your gut bacteria, the actual definition of a probiotic is a non-digestible food component that’s promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria. And so this is basically going to include a lot of different types of plant fibers. And also plant phytochemicals, such as like polyphenols. And so apart from fruits and vegetables and whole grains, you can also find these in lots of different types of legumes. Legumes are an amazing source of a lot of different types of prebiotic fibers. So things like lentils, and chickpeas, and any type of bean that you might like. Also, nuts and seeds are also very good sources of prebiotics. And so there’s a huge variety out there. And when we’re talking about this as well, we’re really talking about eating the rainbow. So, you know, when we talk about whole grains, you know, we’re not just talking about eating, we were talking about, you know, including things like brown rice, and quinoa, and barley, you know, really trying to diversify what we have in our diet.

Natalie K. Douglas 6:41
Mm-hmm. Yeah, I agree. And it’s more exciting to eat that way. I think variety is is is great. And I, I think that oh, like actually, before we move on to my next question, what about prebiotic supplements? So what is available out there and what has really good research behind it in the way of supplementation with prebiotics?

Dr. Alena Pribyl 7:03
So, unfortunately, I actually don’t really do a lot of research on the supplements. Here at Microba, we really focus on trying to get people to improve their diet through Whole Foods. And so we don’t usually talk too much about the supplements. One reason for that is just because when you’re eating the whole food, you’re getting a whole package there, you’re getting a lot of prebiotics that are good for your gut microbiome, but you’re also getting a lot of other things like essential vitamins that are really important to maintain, you know, your body’s health. And so we really try to get people to focus on improving their gut microbiome through Whole Foods as opposed through as opposed to through supplements.

Natalie K. Douglas 7:41
Yeah, I love that. And I actually think that it’s a sensible way, and probably are more cost-effective way to to do things, especially when you’re looking at optimization. So just to maybe even just pull out some of the examples of like, prebiotic substances. And what I’m kind of alluding to is, there are things like, GOS and FOS and, partially hydrolyzed guar gum. So they’re, just to clarify for anyone listening, they can be found in supplements, however, they’re also found in your food. So I just wanted to clear that up in case anyone had seen prebiotic supplements and wondered, oh, well, do I need to take this, or is it in my food? It’s absolutely in your food as well, which is extremely convenient and makes life a little bit easier. When it comes to, you know, diet, because obviously, that’s a big area that we focus on in changing our microbiome. Are there like, is there any research, either short term or long term research or short term and long term side effects, sorry, on the microbiome when following diet, which restrict carbohydrates in particular, which is where we find a lot of these prebiotic-rich foods? So I guess the one that comes to mind is more of a ketogenic-type, like style of diet, which might. I was spoken on the podcast before about the ketogenic diet, and that they have a, you know, a purpose in certain specific situations. But my personal opinion, and I guess my experience, or my my concern is around the effect on the microbiome. Have you seen much evidence around around that?

Dr. Alena Pribyl 9:30
Yes, but not specifically with the keto diet. But there have been several studies in general that compare, both in animals and in people that compare people on low fiber diets versus higher fiber diets. And in all of those studies, you typically always see the common patterns that when you have a low fiber diet, you’ve got decreased microbial diversity, you get a reduction in the numbers of bacteria that are able to produce those beneficial short-chain fatty acids that are so important for our health. And you typically get an increase in the numbers of those bacteria that are able to produce those more proinflammatory compounds such as trimethylamine, which is linked to heart disease, and the lipopolysaccharides. There was actually a study specifically on the Paleo diet that came out, I think about a year ago, and that study also did show increased levels of bacteria that produced trimethylamine in people that were on the strict paleo diet. Hopefully, though, there’s also been a lot of research on the Mediterranean diet and that has been shown to probably if you were looking for a specific diet to be the best one so far for the gut microbiome. There’s been about two or three studies now in humans on the Mediterranean diet, all of those have shown basically, that when you have good adherence to it, you’re able to increase the numbers of your bacteria that are able to produce those beneficial short-chain fatty acids, especially butyrate, and you get a reduction in the number of bacteria that are producing those proinflammatory compounds. And I think in one of the studies, they also showed you had increase diversity as a result of adhering to that. So in general, anything that is going to restrict the amount of fiber in your diet is probably not going to be very beneficial for your gut microbiome. And anything that’s going to enhance the different types of fiber that you’re able to consume is probably going to be good for your gut microbiome.

Natalie K. Douglas 11:25
Yeah, well, it makes sense, doesn’t it? You have to kind of feed it for it to for it to grow. What about the influence of of dietary fat? I feel like this has been, I mean, maybe it’s just on my radar more now. And I think that it particularly we, you know, we’ve kind of gone through this evolution of fat is terrible. And then, you know, fat is amazing. And you should just have all of it all of the time to now this place, or maybe this is my own journey, to maybe now this place where it’s it’s not bad in small to moderate amounts, but also the impact of excess fat on the microbiome. Can you speak a little bit about what we know about, you know, dietary fat on the microbiome?

Dr. Alena Pribyl 12:12
Yeah, I know, it’s a good question. Um, there hasn’t been a whole lot of research on the impacts of dietary fat on the microbiome, it’s more of an indirect effects. So most people’s thus far have really been focusing on the impacts of protein, the impacts of fiber on the gut microbiome. Um, I think fat is the next thing that’s going to be really more heavily researched. But what we are seeing is that, you know, there are some species that can actually thrive on specific types of bile acids. So when we do eat foods that are high in fat, and especially saturated fat, we tend to get, you know, more production of bile acids that our body uses to break those fats down. But a lot of the bile acids are actually conjugated to one of two different compounds. One is called taurine, and the other one is called glycine. And some of our gut bacteria can actually use that taurine as a fuel source. And so when we eat heavy foods that are high in fat, oftentimes, we see increases in some of these specific types of bacteria that use that taurine as an energy source. And unfortunately, those bacteria are typically not the ones you want to have growing in your gut microbiome, because they’re going to be producing more pro-inflammatory substances like hydrogen sulfide, and trimethylamine and so we do see that negative impact. The other thing to consider is for people that do have a lot of bacteria that are able to produce the pro-inflammatory compound called lipopolysaccharide, this is a compound in bacteria that is actually very similar to a fat molecule. And what we’ve seen in studies is that when people have a lot of bacteria that are able to produce that, and then they also eat a diet that’s high in saturated fat, they tend to get more translocation of that lipopolysaccharide, from the gut into the bloodstream. And that’s because when we eat fat, our body produces these molecules called chylomicrons that attach to the fat molecules that have been broken down in our gut to transport them into our body to be able to be used by our body where it’s needed. But they’re also transporting these lipopolysaccharides across because they see those just the same as the fat molecule. And the problem with that is those lipopolysaccharides are actually going to trigger inflammation anytime they make an immune cell in our body. And so there’s a lot of studies that are suggesting that actually, perhaps one of the reasons or one of the contributing factors to a lot of our chronic diseases is this low-grade chronic inflammation and one of the factors that can be contributing to that is enhanced lipopolysaccharides produced by our gut bacteria getting transported out of our intestine into the circulation.

Natalie K. Douglas 15:06
That’s so fascinating, isn’t it? Because I think, you know, LPS or lipopolysaccharide. It gets spoken about a lot and it’s really good to make those connections. And also to know that there is an influence that you can have through diet. And I think for a lot of people listening to the podcast, you know, we have a lot of patients that already have or not patients, but listeners that have Hashimoto’s, or autoimmune conditions as well. And I think that it’s, you know, inflammation in my patients that have those conditions, is often a big part of what we need to look at and understand, and it’s really interesting to hear that, yeah, those LPS are absolutely influenced by our diet and have an influence on our heart-whole gut microbiome. So, so fascinating. Is there anything else that and they may not be, which is absolutely fine but is there anything else that you would like to share or could share with the listeners about optimizing gut health that we haven’t spoken about already? I mean, my takeaways from it so far are that prebiotics are really important and that we can actually get most of them through or all of them pretty much through our food and having a really diverse diet and eating the rainbow is is incredibly important, important. And then using probiotics when necessary, is also a great tool. Is there anything else from like a dietary perspective that can or even lifestyle perspective that can influence our gut microbiome?

Dr. Alena Pribyl
Yeah. You know, what?

Natalie K. Douglas
In a positive way?

Dr. Alena Pribyl 16:42
Yeah, well, one thing that I find myself doing a lot, and that I think is definitely something that a lot of people probably do as well is, you know, really thinking about how do we incorporate those different sources of fiber into our diet, like, it’s very easy for us all to kind of think, oh, I’m eating a healthy diet, I have, you know, so like, Weet-Bix for breakfast, and I’ve got wholemeal bread for my sandwich that I eat for lunch. And, you know, I have a nice, you know, veggie pasta for dinner, you know, but when you think about, you know, what types of fiber are in those different meals, you know, all of them actually would be wheat-based, you know. It would give your Weet-Bix that’s wheat-based, your wholemeal bread is wheat-based, your pasta is often wheat-based. And so really thinking about, you know, like, how do I actually get different types of fiber into my diet. And so like, I personally like to try to aim for at least 20 different types of plant-based fibers in my diet per day. So like, instead of having.

Natalie K. Douglas 17:41
Wow, that is impressive. I love it, tell me more.

Dr. Alena Pribyl 17:44
But it’s quite simple when you think about it, you know, like oftentimes, you know, maybe have some oats or muesli with a couple different kinds of fruit on it for breakfast. And then you know, for lunch, you can have like, you know, a salad with quinoa, or maybe a sandwich using rye bread instead of wholemeal bread, you know, and at dinner, think about, you know, having brown rice, or pearl barley, or you know, something different as a different type of grain, you know, as you know, as a side with your main meal. And just, you know, thinking like we were talking about earlier, there’s so many amazing different types of whole grains and fruits and vegetables out there. So really getting out there and experimenting with those different types and looking up new recipes, and really trying to aim for eating as many different types for days you can, instead of getting stuck into that routine of eating the same thing every day.

Natalie K. Douglas 18:35
Yeah, it’s so easy to do isn’t it? And I think especially happens with, like fruits and vegetables, or even vegetables in particular, because we tend to just go for the ones that we know how to prepare and we know we like. But I always challenge my patients and clients to every week when they go to the farmers market or the shop to pick up a vegetable that they’ve never had before they haven’t had in a long time, and look up how to cook it, or if you’re at the farmers market, which is my personal favorite I ask, like, if I’m not sure and they often know, and it’s a really great way to just, you know, expand the diversity of your diet. And I also find another thing that’s really helpful is eating seasonally. And I find that helpful, because it’s almost like a forced variation in your diet, too. And it’s really also is, yeah, it forces you to eat different foods, to learn how to cook them, to learn how to make them taste good, and I think that it’s a really easy way to improve the nutrient density of your diet, and to support your microbiome with really not that much more effort. So I love I love that you you have that aim. I’m gonna take that, I’m gonna borrow that, and and see how I go.

Dr. Alena Pribyl 19:49
So, it’s actually a lot simpler than you expect. It’s very easy.

Natalie K. Douglas 19:54
Yeah, that’s awesome. Well, Elena, it has been been a pleasure. Thank you so much for your time and have a beautiful day.

Outro 20:04
Thanks for tuning in to The Holistic Nutritionists Podcast. Remember, we love to make the show relevant to you. If you have any questions or topics you’d like us to discuss, just submit them to [email protected] and we’ll get them answered for you. Also, don’t forget to subscribe, rate, and review the podcast on iTunes and share it with your friend. And if you’re looking for more info about how we can accelerate your journey to your optimal health, you can find me, Nat, over at NatalieKDouglas.com, and Kate, at TheHolisticNutritionist.com. See you next time!


The Holistic Nutritionists Podcast - with Natalie K. Douglas and Kate Callaghan

Welcome to The Holistic Nutritionists Podcast!

If a professional, polished, well-edited podcast is what you’re after…then we’re not for you!

But if you love unfiltered banter, unedited bloopers and authentic heart sharing then we are your ladies.

We also have the most practical tips on holistic and alternative health care too 😉

Have a question that you want answered on the podcast or want to be interviewed? Get in touch!


Natalie K. Douglas | Thyroid Healer

Natalie K. Douglas | Thyroid Healer

Natalie K. Douglas ("Nat") is a Holistic Dietitian and Nutritionist dedicated to Thyroid, gut and hormone healing.

Nat shows stressed, burnt out, overwhelmed women how to value their worth again, change their mindset habits, prioritize healing, and reclaim their vitality. Guaranteed.

Her clients say she’s the right girl to see if you’ve tried the conventional approach and nothing has worked.

Kate Callaghan | The Holistic Nutritionist

Kate Callaghan | The Holistic Nutritionist

Kate Callaghan is a Holistic Nutritionist, Personal Trainer and Lifestyle Coach who specializes in women's hormone healing.

She recognizes that there is no “one size fits all” diet or “magic bullet” which is going to cure all illnesses.

She focuses on having a thorough understanding of your personal goals, needs, likes/dislikes, support networks and lifestyle in order to create a food and lifestyle approach that suits YOU.


Dr. Alena Pribyl | Senior Scientist & Research Officer for Microba

Dr. Alena Pribyl | Senior Scientist & Research Officer for Microba


Dr Pribyl is the Senior Scientist and Research Officer with biotech company Microba, a leader in the analysis of the gut microbiome. She has expertise in human microbiome research, microbiology, and stress physiology in fish. She also has a passion for science communication to support science-informed decision making. Dr Pribyl received her Ph.D. in Fisheries Science in 2010 from Oregon State University, was a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow, and was a CCST Science & Technology Policy Fellow before moving to Australia in 2015 where she started working at the Australian Centre for Ecogenomics at the University of Queensland in the area of the human microbiome. She has presented at many conferences and seminars to science and laymen audiences.


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