IMPROVING GUT HEALTH
Numerous studies have shown that diets high in meats and processed foods result in increased gut inflammation as well as significantly disrupt the health of the gut microbiota. Typically, these types of diets are also low in plant foods... those that are high in fibre and anti-inflammatory nutrients. Further to this, diets high in processed foods often contain a very limited variety of foods, impacting on nutrient adequacy.
Ultimately, all of these above factors affect the amounts and diversity of good gut bacteria species, meaning they compromise the gut microbiota.
A COMPROMISED GUT MICROBIOTA
A compromised gut microbiota can promote obesity, numerous digestive conditions, including constipation, abdominal discomfort, diverticular disease, irritable bowel syndrome and colorectal cancer, as well as many other chronic health diseases.
In contrast to diets high in animal products and processed foods, an eating pattern that incorporates mostly plant-based wholefoods favours good gut health, particularly via its way of enriching gut microbiota diversity. This is paramount because your gut microbiota health is essential for your whole body to function properly.
When you have good gut health, your microbiota carry out a number of very important roles within your digestive tract. These include:
Assisting with food digestion
Synthesising certain vitamins and short chain fatty acids
Providing numerous immune functions, including fighting off pathogens (e.g. when gastroenteritis hits), reducing inflammation and stimulating the body’s internal immune system to switch on.
The more varied your diet is in plant-based wholefoods, the more fibre, phytonutrients, prebiotics and probiotics you will receive... all of which support the growth and functioning of a
healthy gut microbiota.
Prebiotics are a special type of fibre that resist digestion, end up in your large intestine and feed your gut bacteria. Essentially they fuel your gut bacteria, allow them to thrive and in turn perform their numerous beneficial functions. When your gut bacteria digest prebiotics fermentation occurs and a very beneficial fatty acid called butyrate is produced. Butyrate fuels your colon cells and enhances your digestive system.
Probiotics are live micro-organisms, such as bacteria and yeast, which, when consumed in adequate amounts, confer health benefits on the host (i.e. the person consuming them). Benefits can include:
Reduction of potentially pathogenic (harmful) gut microorganisms
Reduction of gastro-intestinal discomfort
Strengthening of the immune system
Improvement of the skin’s function
Improved bowel-movement regularity
Decreased body pathogens
Reduced flatulence (farting) and bloating
Protection from oxidative damage
Maintenance of gut microflora during antibiotic treatment
A VARIED PLANT-BASED DIET
A varied plant-based diet improves gut health via:
Delivering a rich supply of fibre, prebiotics, probiotics, vitamins, polyphenols and anti-inflammatory foods that promote digestive health.
Fuelling the growth of good gut bacteria, including increased bacterial specie diversity.
Increasing the structural and functional capacity of the digestive system through providing the right mix of nutrients that support gut integrity and maintain gut muscle strength.
Preventing the development and progression of digestive conditions and chronic conditions.
Limiting/excluding gastric irritants, including alcohol, refined sugars, preservatives and animal foods that can negatively alter the composition of good and bad gut bacteria.
A LIST OF SPECIFIC PLANT FOODS FOR GOOD GUT HEALTH...