Practical Recommendations To Increase Gut Microbial Diversity

The Gut Microbiota for Health meeting (Barcelona, Spain, March 13-15) particularly emphasized the applications of gut microbiota science. Scientists haven’t yet identified the ‘healthiest’ microbial composition, but what’s clear so far is that a diverse colonizing microbiota is important: more diversity means greater resilience, with the potential to make you generally healthier and able to resist specific diseases.

With input from other GMFH board members, I have created a list of practical recommendations which, to the best of our current knowledge, increase the diversity of microbes colonizing your gut:

  • Eat a diverse diet
  • Consume fermented foods with live microbes; they have at least a transient effect
  • Eat washed raw fruits and vegetables, which harbor environmental microbes (not recommended if you have difficulties digesting raw vegetables)
  • Consider consuming probiotic-containing foods/supplements; look up the controlled trials for evidence of health benefits from specific probiotics
  • Consume adequate levels of diverse types of fiber, including prebiotics, to promote a diverse microbiota; this might mean consuming 2-3 kinds of fruits or vegetables in one sitting
  • Breast feed your baby; breast milk contains live microbes and a rich supply of oligosaccharides that appear to enrich good bacteria in the baby’s gut
  • Avoid elective caesarean births; if one is medically necessary, talk to your pediatrician about swabbing the newborn with mom’s vaginal flora, as in a procedure being investigated by Maria Gloria Dominguez Bello
  • Avoid unnecessary antibiotics
  • Wash hands with soap and water instead of sanitizing
  • Live on a farm, or at least have a dog or two; this seems especially beneficial for children if started when they are babies

And if you want to know more about the world inside you, check out these non-profit projects, which allow you to get your microbiota assayed and compare your microbial diversity to others in the project:

Mary Ellen Sanders
Mary Ellen Sanders
Mary Ellen Sanders is a consultant in the area of probiotic microbiology, with special expertise on paths to scientific substantiation of probiotic product label claims. Dr. Sanders served as the founding president of the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) and is currently the organization’s Director of Scientific Affairs/ Executive Officer. This international, non-profit association of academic and industrial scientists is dedicated to advancing the science of probiotics and prebiotics ( Through numerous written, oral and video pieces, including a website,, she strives to provide objective, evidence-based information on probiotics for consumers and professionals. Key activities include: Panels to determine GRAS status of probiotic strains ; member of the American Gastroenterological Association Scientific Advisory Board for AGA Center for Gut Microbiome Research and Education ; World Gastroenterology Organisation Committee preparing practice guidelines for the use of probiotics and prebiotics for GI indications (2008, 2011, 2014) ; working group convened by the FAO/WHO that developed guidelines for probiotics (2002).