Are diet habits as important as the experts stress?
Eating habits play an important role in our lives. Our food choices pretty much determine how healthy our lifestyle is. Did you know that unhealthy eating habits are the leading cause of the obesity epidemic in the United States? According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese.
There are numerous studies that have identified a link between a healthy, gut health diet and a reduced risk of chronic disease. Some of these include heart diseases, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis etc.
Can something as simple as an eating habit change our bodies on a molecular level?
Our bodies are made of trillions and trillions of cells, but the fact that the number of microbes that are in our bodies outnumber our cell count ten to one is where things start to get interesting.
A vast number of these bacteria live in our digestive tract, and their role is really important, as they help us digest everything we eat and drink. With this in mind it is only safe to assume that our diet habits have an effect on these bacteria. This was also the basic assumption of many studies.
Many researchers devoted their academic careers to finding the answer to this question, and they have all confirmed that everything we eat and drink has an effect on these bacteria, also popularly called gut flora. The food and drinks we consume not only impact the number of bacteria in our digestive tract, but also their diversity. Some foods to avoid if you're trying to follow a gut health diet and repair your gut flora:
- Any processed food – nutrient deprived, fake foods that often contain gut harming chemicals and other industrial additives
- Sugar – feeds bad bacteria in our gut
- HFCS – another industrial franken-food that feeds bad gut bacteria
- Artificial Sweeteners – have a negative impact on your gut health
Is there such a thing as bad and good “gut flora” food?
Our gut flora is so important that it would be impossible to digest some foods without it, but did you know that there are some dieting habits that can damage our gut flora numbers? Yeah, this is true. The colonies of gut bacteria are very susceptible to diet changes.
A recent study confirms that restrictive diets that limit the diversity of food we are allowed to consume affects the numbers of certain bacteria colonies that use the nutrients from specific food types to live and multiply.
And this is not all, other studies support that certain diet habits and food types are bad for gut flora. Continuous consumption of specific foods and drinks decreases the number of bacteria in our gut flora.
What foods are good for boosting the number of gut bacteria?
The findings of two major studies that were conducted in order to identify the factors that significantly affect the hundreds of bacteria species living in our gut, tell us that some foods and drinks have a positive effect on gut flora.
For instance, diets that include fruit and vegetables are very beneficial for our gut bacteria. When it comes to drinks, the findings identified these drinks as gut flora boosters:
- Red Wine
Adding in some fruits and fibrous vegetables is another very simple gut health diet change, as several studies suggest, that will have a positive effect on your gut health. In particular, these foods are potent prebiotic foods:
- Burdock root
- Chicory root
- Chocolate (dark)
- Jerusalem artichoke
In addition, fermented foods are probiotic-rich and are power foods for your gut flora. Many are also a great source of fiber to feed your good gut bacteria. Some of the most potent are:
- Fermented Veggies – sauerkraut, kimchi, carrots, and fermented pickles (not pickled pickle!)
- Cultured Dairy – buttermilk, yogurt, kefir, and cheese
- Cultured Non-dairy – yogurts or kefir made from coconut
- Fermented Beverages – kombucha
- Fermented Condiments – raw apple cider vinegar (with “the mother”)
What are the bad habits and foods that decrease numbers of bacteria in our gut’s ecosystem?
The same studies also identified specific habits and foods that hurt our gut flora, by decreasing the numbers of bacteria living in our guts. These numbers are significantly lower when one drinks whole milk and sugar-sweetened beverages.
Among the findings, a high-calorie and a high-carbohydrate diet are identified as factors that hurt the microbial ecosystem in our guts. When it comes diet habits, having frequent snacks is the leading factor that has a major impact on our gut flora, decreasing the numbers of bacteria inhabiting it.
There are other factors that also affect the number and diversity of bacteria in gut flora. The studies have also found that some medications have a large influence on gut bacteria. The drugs that were identified as factors are antibiotics, medications taken to ease heartburn and common diabetes drugs.
There is also evidence that suggests that maintaining gut flora numbers and diversity is really important. Chronic changes in gut flora are believed to lead to ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Introduction to the Ecology of the Intestinal Flora
Adult Obesity Facts
Population-based metagenomics analysis reveals markers for gut microbiome composition and diversity
Population-level analysis of gut microbiome variation
Promoting Health and Longevity through Diet: From Model Organisms to Humans