Gut Health: How to Nurture Your ‘Good’ Bacteria with Diet and Lifestyle {Podcast #286}

There may be no such thing as the Fountain of Youth, but a growing body of cool science shows that taking care of the 100 trillion bacteria that reside inside your gut can have a profound and positive impact on your family’s health.

 On this week’s Cooking with the Moms radio show, we welcome Stanford University scientist, Erica Sonnenburg, PhD to the show to talk about her book, The Good Gut, why our microbial community or “microbiome” is critical for promoting health and warding off disease, and how a few simple and surprising things in our everyday lives can grow and nurture the good bugs that live within you and your kiddos.

  The Good Gut via #guthealth

Erica and Justin Sonnenburg, PhDs co-wrote The Good Gut. They live in California with their two daughters, ages 7 and 9, and their dog, Louis, who’s named after Louis Pasteur. They grow vegetables in their garden, and they eat a lot of fiber. Why the dog and the garden? Well, it turns out that good bacteria live in soil, so exposure to dirt from hands and paws can boost the beneficial bacteria that take up residence in your gut. And why the fiber? Well, that’s what the 1,200 or so bacterial species that live in your gut like to eat.

The Good Gut via #guthealth

{We’re giving away a copy of The Good Gut, so read on for the details on how you can enter to win.}


 If you lined up all of your gut microbes side by side, they would reach the moon.

That’s a lot of bacteria, and it’s no coincidence that the diverse community of bugs that inhabit our gut also plays a significant role in our health. Our collection of microbes helps us digest food and stay regular, and controls our metabolism, immune system, mood and behavior, and even our body weight. They’re wired into our biology.

 The Good Gut via #guthealth

 This is a fluorescence microscopy image of the microbiota in the colon of a mouse. The little “beans” on the top left are the bacteria; the green line bisecting the image is the mucus layer of the intestine; and the blue cells in the bottom right corner are intestinal cells. {Image credit: Kristen Earle, Gabe Billings, KC Huang, and Justin Sonnenburg}

 If bacteria are deprived of their favorite food, which is fiber, they end up eating the mucous layer of the intestine. It sounds gross, and it’s a really bad thing. That mucous layer forms a barrier between us and them, and if it gets too thin, the immune system can kick into overdrive. The result: inflammation that can lead to all sorts of ills including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.


Click the player above to tun in to our show.

 On the show, you’ll learn that the best prescription for a healthy and vibrant bacterial community starts with pre-biotics, the fuel that feeds your bacteria. Since most of your good bugs live in the large intestine, they rely on food that makes it’s way to the colon undigested. That’s where dietary fiber comes in. It’s what your good bugs love to eat. Plant material including fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes,and whole grains make hungry gut bugs happy, healthy and strong.

On average, most Americans consume just 15 grams of fiber a day. The recommended amount is 25 to 38 grams. FIBER IS YOUR FRIEND!

The Good Gut - high fiber pizza via #guthealth

This Fiber-Filled Flatbread Pizza from the recipe section of The Good Gut has 9 grams of fiber, and it’s made with whole wheat naan bread and then topped with pesto, onion, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, capers, artichoke hearts, and Parmesan cheese. Set up a build-your-own pizza bar with whole wheat naan as the base and let the kids make their own high-fiber pies.

 Other ways to boost your bugs include consuming fermented foods that contain beneficial bacteria including kefir, yogurt and kimchi and avoiding the temptation to be hyper hygienic. As Dr. Sonnenburg explains, while washing hands after a day at school or a trip to the public library is a good idea, it’s not always necessary after playing in the garden or with the dog.

The Good Gut via #guthealth #kefir #fermented

 This is our recipe for Strawberry Peanut Overnight Oats made with probiotic-rich kefir.


 Got picky eaters? Dr. Sonnenburg has this strategy that she uses with her daughters: Talk to your children about the bacteria that live in everyone’s gut or tummies, a word that may resonate better with younger kids. Explain how microbes keep everyone healthy and that they’re like a pet that has to be taken care of. And since your pet’s favorite foods are filled with fiber and relies on you to take care of it, it’s important that you eat your side of broccoli, carrots and peas 🙂


Curious about the types of bacteria that live in your gut? Contact the American Gut Project to have your microbiota sequenced.

Tune in to the show for more on the health benefits of your microbiota, why a growing number of C-section babies are being inoculated with their mother’s bacteria, antibiotic use and how it can impact your good bugs in a bad way, when to turn to a probiotic supplement, the benefits of inulin fiber, why it’s important to add fiber-rich foods to your diet slowly, fecal transplants, why you should toss your anti-bacterial soaps, and lots more.

 GIVEAWAY {Closed}

We are giving away one copy of The Good Gut by Erica and Justin Sonnenburg, PhDs (Penguin Press 2015). TO ENTER add a comment right here on this blog post and tell us the most interesting thing you learned from our post and/or the podcast … or tell us why you’d like to win a copy of the book. (U.S. only please.)

We will enter you into the giveaway additional times if you …

> Tweet about the giveaway with a link back to this post.

> Share the giveaway news with your Facebook fans and friends with a link back to the post.

> Follow us on Pinterest.

> Follow The Meal Makeover Moms on Facebook and Twitter (@MealMakeovrMoms).

Giveaway ends at noon on May 18th, so hurry up and enter!

The Good Gut on Cooking with the Moms radio podcast via #guthealth #podcast #fiber

41 responses to “Gut Health: How to Nurture Your ‘Good’ Bacteria with Diet and Lifestyle {Podcast #286}”

  1. Gut health & a heathy microbiome is such a fascinating area of research! I just signed up for a “2 for 1” microbiome test kit {Mother’s Day special} at Ubiome-can’t wait to *see* what’s living in my gut 🙂 When I did research for my CEU course on Leaky Gut Sydrome {aka Increased Intestinal Permeability} I learned so much about the potential negative consequences of an unhealthy gut, but there’s always a lot more to learn-I’d love to read this book!

  2. Talk about a hot topic – I’ve been super interested in learning more about it and this book since the beginning of the year. This was such a great post that put it all into layman’s terms – I’ll look forward to the podcast!

  3. Such great info! The more I learn about this, the more of a believer I am in the power of a healthy gut.

  4. This is such a big topic lately! Wonderfully written post. Great info!

  5. Pat says:

    The most interesting thing I learned was the Strawberry-Peanut Overnight Oats has16 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, and 20% of the bone-building calcium you need each day. Wow!

  6. Pat says:

    I follow you on Pinterest.

  7. Alicia Byars says:

    I thought I had read a lot about the gut, and healthy bacteria. I’ve tried to add more probiotic foods and supplements into our diets. But I had never seen the clear connection between fiber and supporting that gut flora. I always thought of them separately. Thank you!

  8. Alicia Byars says:

    I followed on Pinterest and Facebook and shared the giveaway on Facebook too. 🙂

  9. KammyJMD says:

    I’m a healthcare provider and this looks like a great book to help my patients apply the theories we discuss about leaky gut, the micro biome and its potential influence on weight, energy levels, joint pain, insomnia – not just the belly pain/bloating. We have limited time in the office, and I’d love to be able to scrawl out a resource for them to check out at a more leisurely pace.

  10. Leah says:

    Fiber is a big part of my family’s diet, particularly for my youngest child, and I would love to learn about more ways to increase our gut health!

  11. Belen says:

    As a RD, I am always looking for clever ideas I can suggest to my patients with the ultimate goal of increasing dietary fiber intake for mireads of reasons that are beneficial to my patient population.
    Thanks for sharing ideas with the general public to widespread this healthconcious message!

  12. Amee says:

    I try and shoot for 35 grams of fiber a day and steel cut oats are one of my favorite boosters! Great message and post!!

  13. Julie says:

    I can honestly say I enjoyed learning about bacteria and the mucus layer of the intestine.

  14. Christy Lewis says:

    My family struggles with on the go and eating healthy! Thank you for the strawberry peanut overnight bars. THAT will be happening in our kitchen this weekend! I want my kids invested in their own health. I would love to read your book!

  15. Beth P. says:

    I loved how you talked about letting kids get dirty and not wash their hands. I think we are way too nervous about germs. This was a very interesting podcast!

  16. Heather O says:

    Pre and Probiotics are absolutely fascinating, I’d love to read more about them, and even better that it’s a cookbook too!

  17. Jennifer Lyons says:

    As an RD working to help veterans lose weight, this book would be extremely helpful in educating them on the importance of maintaining a healthy gut. Any evidence to promote eating more Kimchi is what I’m all about!!

  18. Rachael GR says:

    My mother died of a C-dif infection four years ago. The research on repopulating the gut with someone else’s healthy stool was just in its very early stages and at her age she was too weak to be a good candidate. I have had my own issues with colitis and am committed to keeping my gut healthy! I would love this cookbook to keep my family and me healthy!

  19. Angie Green says:

    My kids are such picky eaters and my son suffers from stomach issues so I think this book would be a tremendous help for us.

  20. Janette says:

    Love your talked to day.

  21. This podcast was SUPER interesting. I learned just how important the microbioda is for me and my kids. We’ve been eating coconut flour instead of regular flour to up our fiber intake, and I’ve been making kombucha for awhile. I would love to learn more. Thank you SO much!

  22. Carol Gamble says:

    I know we don’t eat good things in my family so I would love to have another resource to help educate us! Thanks for the info!

  23. Cristen says:

    Think husband and I are victims of leaky gut, trying to do my homework to find out more. Very interested in your book!

  24. Holli says:

    My son has Crohn’s and I’ve heard lots about the microbiome project from his doctor. There’s so much new research and it’s very exciting. Would love to get the book!

  25. Kelly says:

    I look forward to listening to the podcast and the interview with Dr Erica Sonnonburg! I aim for 40g of fiber each day as I learned it can reduce my blood sugar (I recently had a blood test that indicated I am in the pre-diabetic range). Would love to learn more about my gut & how I can improve my health!

  26. Penny Dor says:

    I have been battling with digestive problems as far back as I can remember and the information you provided will no doubt help to heal my digestive system. I would really love to receive a copy of the book.

  27. Kim Beavers says:

    I just love the gut and encouraging gut health promotion foods….One of my graduate research papers was on food and flatulance and while kinda funny, things that I learned way back then are continuing to be talked about today…..and did you know there was a guy who could blow out a candle with his “toots” —yep I have the paper to prove it (I do remember a bit more than that…) but that was a memorable picture. I’d love to win the book for some leisure reading…:). Thanks for bringing this facinating information to the show!

  28. Marci says:

    I would like to win because i am interested in learning more about this

  29. Rachel R. says:

    I was blessed to get an advanced reader copy of this book, and it is SO good! It contains a ton of information but it’s very approachable. And you will definitely not wonder, when you’re finished with it, whether lifestyle choices impact our gut flora.

  30. Wendyh says:

    I did not know that the bacteria in your intestines feed off fiber. Yet another reason to try to boost my fiber intake!

  31. Renee O'Neal says:

    It was encouraging to hear that there are simple, affordable ways to improve your gut health. Since we welcomed a puppy to our family recently, we can check that one off right away!

  32. Susan says:

    I learned that fiber is what feeds the good bacteria in our gut. Great podcast and I’d love to have a copy of the book to so I can educate my whole family!

  33. Jen Wallace says:

    Such great info & so timely. Am in the midst dealing with a chronic GI condition. Two ER visits & two courses of antibiotics have me desperate to find a way to manage my health more holistically. Maybe more garden time this summer?! Sounds like an awesome book!

  34. Petra Schoep says:

    After various intestinal issues I am always looking for new and helpful information. I try and incorporate a lot of fiber into my diet but never realized the connection with gut flora. This book sounds like a great read!

  35. Katy says:

    I am an RD and would like to have this book as a reliable source of information. I am hearing more about the gut microbiome, but can’t trust the media. Thank you!

  36. Erica says:

    I have ulcerative colitis so I love reading about the bacteria in my gut. The more information I can learn the more I learn about my colitis in a way.
    Shared on my G+

  37. Stefanie says:

    I would love to win this book because gut health is a struggle for members of my family. I was happy to see this podcast because I think a lot of us are ignorant of how much of our immune system is based in the gut. I’m a big fan of yours and always recommend you to my fellow mommies!

  38. Amber says:

    I have been interested in learning about gut health, and how to improve it, but haven’t had the chance to do so. Looking forward to listening to your podcast and reading the book.

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