There’s no single ‘gut healthy’ diet

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As with medieval city walls, your gastrointestinal tract is lined with a barrier that protects you from external insults. In close contact with the intestinal barrier, your gut microbiota helps digest and absorb nutrients, protects you against pathogens and trains your immune system.

Transforming communities of beneficial microbes harbored within your intestinal tract could be a good investment in your health, but which are research-backed ways to improve them?

Following a balanced diet is the best advice to keep your inner gastrointestinal ecosystem in shape, according to what experts concluded at the 13th European Nutrition Conference FENS 2019 held in Dublin last October.

There’s no single ‘gut healthy’ diet

You’ve probably turned out to Google to find the correct way to eat for a better gut health. Nutrition is always evolving and nowadays we’re at the tip of the iceberg of what we know about the gut.

Following a balanced diet is the best advice to keep your inner gastrointestinal ecosystem in shape

One robust recommendation highlighted during the talk by Joël Doré, from the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (INRAE), was eating more plants regularly with more diversity to achieving a healthier gut microbiome.

This means that rather than focusing on the best effective diet to look after your gut microbiota, take a moment to think about the foods you add to your shopping chart. Introduce fermented foods, in particular those including probiotics, every day and eat your veggies as several provide prebiotics that are food for beneficial bacteria that we host!

Beyond fiber: food diversity and nutrient balance for a healthier gut microbiota

As we rarely consume nutrients (lipids, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals) in isolation, scientists are focusing on how the whole diet (including quality and food groups) affects gut microbiota.

Although dietary fibers have been largely studied as a preferred fuel for gut bacteria, Karine Clément, from Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris, reporting the results presented at the 8th Gut Microbiota for Health World Summit held in Miami, explained that lipids, proteins, minerals and vitamins may also affect the gut microbiota.

For instance:

  • Proteins: the intake of plant-based proteins may lead to a decreased insulin resistance and lower risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, when compared to animal proteins. However, how each person responds to dietary proteins depends on our gut microbiota. One of the reasons explaining the protective effect of plant-based proteins on cardiovascular disease risk is the production of little compounds (e.g. short-chain fatty acids) by your gut microbiota when breaking down dietary fiber.
  • Some minerals: despite the fact that zinc is a key micronutrient for immune function, excess levels of dietary zinc can have negative effects on the gut microbiota and increase the severity of Clostridioides difficile infection.
  • Sugars: as which happens with zinc, a high consumption of the sugar trehalose (found in plants, insects, fungi and some microorganisms) may also contribute to the global spread of some difficile subtypes.

Introduce fermented foods, in particular those including probiotics, every day and eat your veggies as several provide prebiotics that are food for beneficial bacteria that we host!

On the whole, when it comes to the impact of diet on boosting gut health we’ve learned from the 13th European Nutrition Conference FENS the importance of looking on the whole diet (ie, the forest) rather than focusing on specific dietary trends or nutrients alone (ie, trees alone).

So start not looking for the best diet for your gut health. Rather, try to include the preferred fuel for your gut microbiota, which can be summarized as include fermented foods containing probiotics in your usual diet and don’t forget your veggies.

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