This recent study looks at the importance of consistent healthy eating to modulate the gut microbiome and decrease intestinal inflammatory markers. The gut microbiome has considerate effects on our body, largely the immune system. Eating whole foods such as legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, a small amounts of fermented dairy and fish while avoiding high amounts of processed animal foods, processed foods, alcohol and soft drinks can prevent intestinal inflammation which is a core for many chronic diseases.
Let’s look at what this study is showing us about long-term dietary patterns that affects our gut microbiome.
Inflammatory diseases and the immune system
The western diet we know contributes to ill health especially causing inflammatory diseases that are immune-mediated. Higher intake of processed foods, alcohol and sugar correlates with dysbiosis in people and higher inflammatory markers in the body. The health of our gut microbiome directly affects the balance of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses in our gut. More and more people are affected by inflammatory bowel disease which is one of the main examples of losing balance in our gut. Not only the inflammation affects the local immune responses, but the gut also affects systemic immune components which in response lead to inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, cancer and cardiometabolic disorders. So it is really important to take care of our gut and resolve any intestinal issues early on to avoid chronic diseases.
How processed foods and additives are affecting your gut
Our gut microbiome is involved in which foods bring on their pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory effects. For example, inflammation and autoimmunity were seen through animal studies where they were given foods with high levels of saturated fats, dietary heme, sugar, salt and low levels of fibre. Also, other studies on mice and humans showed that ingredients added during food processing such as dietary emulsifiers, antimicrobial additives and artificial sweeteners increase bad bacteria and endotoxins (toxins released from bacteria when it disintegrates).
What should we be eating to improve our gut microbiome?
This study emphasises on LONG TERM dietary interventions, so we need to be looking at changing your lifestyle rather than thinking short term quick fix diet. The key is to eat 80% of the time to nourish your body with whole foods and 20% of the time indulge in foods that you love. If you do have inflammatory bowel disease or compromised gut I encourage you to stay away from processed foods, alcohol and sugar to fully recover and load up with healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, a small amount of sustainable fish and fermented dairy. You will realise when you start to feed your body with all these delicious healthy foods your body will crave it and you will start to enjoy them.
Here are some examples of foods to incorporate from this study for a healthy gut and immune system:
- Plant-based foods: vegetables, fruits, legumes, and nuts
- Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel
- Fermented foods such as sauerkraut
- A small amount of fermented dairy such as kefir and yoghurt
- A small amount of red wine and coffee: this study did show moderate consumption of red wine (polyphenol extracts) was in favour of the gut microbiome however alcohol is a limiting factor so only a little bit!!)
Limit these foods:
- Processed foods
- Processed meats
- Soft drinks
Reading labels and shopping from your local farmers market is a great way to stay away from processed foods and incorporate whole foods. My friend Nabula from Supermarket Swap just launched her new app where you can search and shop (at Aldi, Coles and Woolworths) all the additive-free products and also easily find sale items! Please check out her website to find out more here.
You can read the full study here. Let me know if you have any questions.
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