Great Gut Blog

Having a Diverse Diet and Rich Gut Flora Can Benefit your Health

Posted by Brad Dennis, Ph.D. on

Having a Diverse Diet and Rich Gut Flora Can Benefit your Health

Do you know what gut flora are?

There are numerous different bacteria that inhabit the human body. The ones found in our digestive tract are commonly referred to as gut flora or gut microbiota and gastrointestinal microbiota. Another interesting fact is that the composition of gut flora is unique to each of us, kind of like our fingerprints. These bacteria found in our digestive tract have some really important functions that have a direct impact on your health, as well as the restoring of your digestive health.

What are the functions of gut flora?

There are certain types of food that would be otherwise impossible to digest if there were no bacteria in our digestive tract. These food types usually pass undigested through the stomach and small intestine and support gut flora diversity, plus it is the job of gut bacteria to help us digest it. Another function of gut bacteria is the production of vitamins B and K.
Gastrointestinal bacteria are also responsible for maintaining the intestinal mucosa that might be on the attack, from time to time, by other microorganisms that inhabit our digestive tract. Among other things, gut flora plays an important role in keeping our immune system ready to fight off any diseases. And needless to say, it also ensures that we have good digestion.

The Diversity of Gut Flora

Our gut flora is made of complex bacterial communities consisting of a large number of completely different bacteria. One recent study confirmed that cultural factors, especially diet, are critical in shaping the gut flora. Different diets result in completely different gut flora among some cultures. For instance, people whose diet is based upon plants have one type, the ones whose diet is based on meat have another and the ones who mainly eat carbs have a completely different type of gut flora from the first two.

Did you know that everything you eat and drink has an effect on gut flora?

One of the recent studies confirms that everything we eat has an effect on our gut bacteria. One of the aspects of this large-scale study was to determine effects of food on the human gut bacteria. Some of the findings are very interesting. For instance, a diet that regularly includes buttermilk and yogurt increases the diversity of gut flora. The same goes for coffee and wine. While it’s quite the opposite for the whole milk and high-calorie diet, since they have a negative effect on gut flora diversity.

This study helped researchers identify over 50 food types that have a direct impact on gut flora diversity. Researchers refrained for drawing specific conclusions from the results, but the first author of this research, Alexandra Zhernakova did say: “But there is a good correlation between diversity of gut flora and health: greater diversity is better.”
What are the effects on our health when we are on a diet without a diversity of nutrients?

One of the studies published in the Molecular Metabolism reveals that health is compromised when we are on a diet that doesn’t contain all of the different nutrients that our body needs. They say that reduced diversity of nutrients has an effect on the diversity of our gut flora, thus also affecting our health. There are more and more studies that complement these results. For instance, some studies have found that, compared to the healthy population, the gut flora of people with type 2 diabetes, obesity and inflammatory bowel disease has a reduced diversity of bacteria.

Are restrictive diets bad for health?

Some of the bacteria inhabiting our intestines require specific nutrients in order to survive in their habitat. By going on a restrictive diet, we are getting read of some foods which may be the primary source of nutrients for some of the bacteria in our gut flora. Studies show that temporarily excluding some nutrients will also temporarily reduce gut flora diversity, but prolonged restrictive diets result in great losses of gut flora, and in such a way that it cannot be reversed.

This study has also found that intermittent fasting may cause our gut flora to use nutrients found in protective layers of our intestines, which leads to colitis and metabolic syndrome. This is why it is important to always work with a professional nutritionist before going on a diet. The same goes with dietary supplements that are being used haphazardly by more and more people each day. It is quite clear that one of the aspects of gut flora health is its diversity and that this diversity comes from having a diverse diet.


Diversity, stability and resilience of the human gut microbiota

Diverse diets enrich gut microbes

A healthy gastrointestinal microbiome is dependent on dietary diversity

Lifestyle has a strong impact on intestinal bacteria, which has a strong impact on health


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