The gut microbiome and how fermented foods can nourish it topped the Washington Post headlines in September. The article shared highlights from the growing number of studies that suggest “these vast communities of microbes are the gateway to your health and well-being — and that one of the simplest and most powerful ways to shape and nurture them is through your diet.” Food (and environment and lifestyle behaviors) have a much larger impact on the gut microbiome than genetics.
The article by health reporter Anahad O’Conner says science proves diverse diets make diverse gut microbiomes. Lower rates of microbiome diversity is linked to chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
One way to increase that diversity is by eating fermented foods – the article points out yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha and kefir as excellent examples.
“The microbes in fermented foods, known as probiotics, produce vitamins, hormones and other nutrients. When you consume them, they can increase your gut microbiome diversity and boost your immune health, said Maria Marco, a professor of food science and technology who studies microbes and gut health at the University of California, Davis.”
A study by researchers at Stanford – and published last year in the journal Cell – found people who eat fermented food regularly increase their gut microbial diversity and lower their levels of inflammation.
“While it’s clear that eating lots of fiber is good for your microbiome, research shows that eating the wrong foods can tip the balance in your gut in favor of disease-promoting microbes,” writes O’Connor. The “bad” microbes, according to research, are commonly found in highly processed foods “that are low in fiber and high in additives such as sugar, salt and artificial ingredients. This includes soft drinks, white bread and white pasta, processed meats and packaged snacks like cookies, candy bars and potato chips.
Tim Spector, professor of epidemiology at King’s College London and the founder of the British Gut Project, tells the Washington Post that eating a wide variety of plants, fiber and nutrient-dense foods is also beneficial for the gut. Spector encourages people to eat 30 different plant foods a week, which can include produce, nuts, herbs and spices.
Read more (The Washington Post)