What You Need To Know About Gut Health...
Just as animals and plants have evolved over thousands of years, bacteria have been evolving for billions of years and continue to adapt in this quickly changing world. Our gut microbes now face vastly different inputs from our modernized lifestyles in terms of how most westerners eat (highly processed, industrially grown, calorie dense yet nutrient poor) and live (antibacterial home cleaners, overuse of antibiotics, less time in nature and exercising).
The gut microbiota are in charge of your immune system, which is central to your overall health. By not supporting the bacteria within, you increase your risk for numerous chronic diseases like cancer and auto-immune diseases. These bacteria produce chemicals that impact inflammation levels—inflammation is the root cause of all disease—and communicate with our brain—potentially affecting mood and behavior. The majority of these guys live in your large intestine and colon where they finish off the undigested leftovers, their favorite are plant-polysaccharides aka fiber!
95% of Americans don’t reach their recommended dietary fiber intake, which sets the stage for digestive dysfunction. In a study comparing the daily fiber intake between 51 omnivores, vegetarians, and to no surprise vegans consumed considerably more fiber—24g more than the omnivore group—due to their high intake of vegetables, legumes, and unrefined foods most notably bread. Eating a whole-foods plant-based diet gives you, your microbes, and the planet endless advantages!
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When looking at the rise in chronic disease it’s no wonder that it aligns with our rapidly industrialized food system. In 2017 the New England Journal of Medicine published a paper that analyzed health data from 195 countries over 25 years specifically looking at the rates of overweight and obese people. Researchers noticed that as low- and middle-income countries developed there is a transition from a predominantly plant-based diet to a “Westernized” diet (high in animal fat, sugar, salt), which they concluded “that poor diets and the accessibility of inexpensive, nutrient-poor packaged foods were a key component of rising global rates of obesity, more so than a reduction in physical activity.” Processed foods, found on every corner in developed nations, are stripped of their natural fiber and definitely don’t come with beneficial life in them. Likewise, produce has been selectively breed for better looks, taste, and have longer shelf-life rather than focusing on the nutritional content. That is why I encourage you to purchase local organic produce whenever possible!
Our gut microbe species change depending on the food regularly consumed, this is called plasticity, and is arguably one of the biggest factors as to why people struggle with weight loss or switching to a more plant-based diet (this could be a whole blog post of its own). For example, if you eat burgers and fries frequently you’ll contain high population of microbes who thrive on those foods, which they will break down but not many beneficial outcomes will result. Once you try to change your diet you may not feel satisfied, be gassy, or have cravings due to your microbe population demanding the burgers and fries. It’s little more complicated than that, but you get the point. There is hope for you and your microbes to make the switch sustainably! The more plant-based fiber-rich foods you incorporate the greater population of good microbes will establish; it is estimated that it takes 90 days to completely change your microbiota.
There’s much more microbial goodies to discuss so I hope this peaked your interest for next week’s article. I will deep-dive into restoring your gut, probiotics, enzymes, and lifestyle changes you can do for a healthier, long-living you!
"Live Dirty, Eat Clean & Green",