We have all heard that having good gut health leads to better overall health and decreased risk of disease. Are you aware that your gut is responsible for 70% of your immune system? So, how can we make sure our gut is in tip top shape? Fun fact, changing your diet can result in a shift of the microbial composition of your gut in as little as 24 hours. So, despite that weekend of burgers and fries you consumed at happy hour, you’re not a lost cause. Eating a diet that supports the health of your gut can be a fairly quick shift.
The gut microbiota are a group of trillions of live microorganisms that reside in your digestive tract. These fun little creatures play a key role in protecting you against infections, modulating immune function, metabolic processes and producing certain nutrients. So, as you can see they are pretty darn important. So lets take a look at how what you eat changes the bacteria of your gut.
Impact of diet on the microbiome
It is mainly digested in the small intestine, but when consumed in excess it is forced down into the colon to be broken down. Our society has a huge focus on protein and many of us consume way more than is necessary for survival. When protein is forced into the colon it disturbs the health of the microbiota that live there. The process of breaking down the protein causes fermentation resulting in the growth of harmful bacteria (not a good thing). Resulting in a breakdown of the intestinal mucosal barrier and leading to inflammation.
High fat diets can lead to decreased amounts of Akkermansia in the gut. These helpful bacteria reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome. This is a cluster of conditions that occur together to increase your risk of diseases such as diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.
These are live microorganisms that when consumed result in many health benefits. They help improve the composition of the intestinal microbiota, helping it perform more effectively.
This is indigestible fiber that undergoes a fermentation process when broken down providing fuel for other bacteria in the gut. It also plays a role as a mediator between the microbiome and the host’s immune system.
Non-caloric artificial sweeteners including sucralose, saccharin and aspartame when consumed can cause an imbalance in the microbiota of your gut. Which can lead to health problems such as glucose intolerance.
These plant-based chemical are strong antioxidants that defend our bodies against oxidative stress. They inhibit the growth of H.pylori (responsible for gastritis and peptic ulcers).
Diet changes for a healthy microbiome
- Picking the right protein
Having a diet with moderate consumption of protein is best. And choosing plant protein such as peas, quinoa or nuts whenever possible. The Institute of Medicine recommends 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of weight per day, for both men and women.
2. Limit sugar and artificial sweeteners
Try replacing sweet snacks with fresh fruit. Put down the diet soda and try sparkling water instead.
3. Include polyphenols
Green and black tea are excellent sources of polyphenols. Also, try adding in citrus fruit, seeds, berries, and even red wine (hallelujah).
4. Amp up the fiber
Increase your intake of high-fiber foods such as nuts, seeds, whole grains, vegetables and fruit. Looking for more information on fiber check out this post Dietary fiber: What’s all the fuss about?
5. Fermented foods
Probiotics can be added to your diet by including fermented vegetables (kimchi, sauerkraut), cultured dairy (yogurt) and fermented soy products (miso, tempeh).
Our gut health (micorobiome) plays a key role in our overall health and ability to avoid diseases. By eating a well-balanced, whole food diet, we can play a key factor in making this as good as possible. Incorporating the diet changes listed above you can improve the state of your gut health and overall ability to fight disease. Look for our post on Wednesday to find out how to beat post-holiday belly bloat.