“The road to health is paved with good intestines!” ―Dr. Sherry A. Rogers
Our gut is a house to millions of microbes. The gut microbiome has tremendous potential to impact our physiology. It maintains metabolic functions, protects against pathogens and influences the immune system, thereby maintaining most of the body’s physiological functions.
We are all familiar with the saying – you are what you eat. Yes! It is true. The kind of food that you eat affects the microbiome in the gut which in turn affects you. Various researches and analytical studies have concluded that poor gut health can lead to several health complications.
For instance, foods containing high amounts of phosphatidylcholine such as meat and poultry has been linked to a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. The gut synthesizes this phosphatidylcholine into the metabolite trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). It was found that increased plasma TMAO levels were associated with increased risk for cardiovascular events in patients with cardiovascular disease risk factors.
Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) is the prime example of a human disease that develops as a result of critical changes to the gut microbiome. Infection caused by this strain includes diarrhoea, fever, nausea and abdominal pain. Studies have also suggested that inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) are associated with alterations in the gut microbiota. The good thing is that these diseases and disorders can be avoided or at least reduced by maintaining proper gut health.
Here we talk about some food practices you should follow for a healthier gut!
Include More Fiber
Foods high in fiber keep the gut healthy. Foods such as broccoli, artichokes, raspberries, lentils and beans are high on fiber. If the body has a low fiber intake, the microbes start to feed on the protective mucus lining of the intestine. If this lining is worn down, it can cause infections and various diseases. The gut microbiome extracts energy, nutrients, vitamins and fatty acids from the fiber-rich foods, which improves immune function, decrease inflammation and protects against obesity.
According to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, eating insoluble fibre-rich foods can reduce the risk of intestinal inflammation by 40%. Convincing evidence shows that the low fiber diet degrades the colonic mucus barrier, causing microbiota encroachment and resulting in pathogen susceptibility and inflammation. This leads to the development of various chronic diseases.
Observational studies have shown that fiber intake is beneficial for human health. A recent intervention study found dietary fibers significantly reduced insulin resistance in patients with type 2 diabetes, with clear links to the shifts in the microbiota and beneficial metabolites such as butyrate.
Choose Complex Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrate foods such as whole grains are one of the best for maintaining a healthy gut as these contain lots of fiber and non-digestible carbs like beta-glucan. These are not broken down in the smaller intestine and pass on to the larger intestine where they are broken down by the microbiota. This stimulates the growth of different beneficial bacteria such as Bifidobacteria, Lactobacilli and Bacteroidetes in the gut.
A study conducted by the Wright State University, Dayton, revealed that switching from a balanced diet to a high-fat, no-carb diet decreased strains of bacteria such as Bacteroides, Clostridium, and Roseburia, which are responsible for degrading proteins and carbohydrates. It also increased strains of bacteria that metabolize fatty acids. As a result, this reduced the production of short-chain fatty acids and antioxidants, which are chemical compounds that fight DNA damage and aging by removing the harmful effects of free radicals.
Thus, eliminating carbohydrates from the diet can lead to a substantial decrease in the production of fatty acids and antioxidants in the colonic region of the gut, which might have negative health effects.
Probiotics are Essential
Probiotics are healthy bacteria which help in keeping the gut healthy. Probiotic foods include fermented foods, yoghurt, kefir and sauerkraut. Fermented foods can be a key component of the diet that keeps your gut healthy. These foods remove unhealthy bacteria from the gut, improve absorption of minerals and support overall health. Fermented foods contain beneficial enzymes, B-vitamins, and various strains of probiotics which are essential for good health.
Yoghurt contains beneficial bacteria cultures like S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, and Bifidobacteria. These cultures help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut and prevent dysbiosis, which can enhance your immune system. Around 70% of the bacteria affecting the immune system of the body reside in the gut, hence consumption of yoghurt increases the growth of such beneficial bacteria.
So are Prebiotics
Prebiotic food feeds the healthy bacteria present in your gut. Good sources of prebiotics include Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, raw dandelion greens, leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus, whole wheat, spinach, beans, bananas, lentils, beets and oats. These prebiotic foods are also rich in fibers that are beneficial for the gut microbiome.
Avoid Excess Sugar
High-intensity artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame, and saccharin have been shown to disrupt the balance and diversity of gut microbiota. Some studies have shown that artificial sweeteners like aspartame increase blood sugar by stimulating the growth of unhealthy bacteria like Enterobacteriaceae in the gut.
High amounts of refined sugars, especially high-fructose corn syrup, have been linked to an increased LDL or bad cholesterol level in the body. High fructose corn syrup also causes leaky gut syndrome, a condition wherein the intestinal permeability increases allowing bacteria, pathogens and other toxins to enter the bloodstream.
Eat More Vegetables
Vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage,brussels sprouts, asparagus, dandelion greens, seaweed and artichoke are a blessing to the gut. Asparagus and dandelion greens are rich in insulin which can help with diabetes. They also help promote regularity and decrease bloating.
One of the key ingredients in maintaining gut barrier function is the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR). This receptor helps to manage the gut’s response to contaminants and triggers a reaction when the gut is exposed to toxins.
Vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts, contain insole glucosinolates that break down into compounds such as indolocarbazole (ICZ) in the stomach.ICZ binds to and activates AHR on the lining of the intestines and helps boost the immune system and maintain balance in the gut flora. It is also suggested that this interaction between ICZ and AHR provides protection against chronic inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and certain cancers.
Fruits like bananas and apples keep the gut healthy and fit. Banana is high in potassium and magnesium which can aid against inflammation. A study released in the journal Anaerobe showed that bananas help in reducing bloating. Bananas contain the enzyme amylase, which is naturally present in your saliva that help breaks down foods.
It also contains another enzyme called maltase, which breaks down malt sugars and allows the gut to easily process these foods. Apples contain a naturally occurring substance called pectin, a type of fiber that acts as a prebiotic by feeding the good bacteria in your gut.
A healthy gut leads to a healthy body and mind. Diets rich in vegetables, complex carbohydrates, fibers and fruits promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut which is responsible for the proper functioning of the body and mind.