New research is helping to unravel the mystery of how disruptions to the bacteria in our gut can lead to disease onset. Studies reveal that gut bacteria play an important determinant in obesity susceptibility and related metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. Research has showcased the changes that occur in the composition of gut bacteria of obese individuals, characterised by decreased numbers of bacterial species and the overall bacterial diversity. It is thought that the ‘obese microbiota’ may enhance signals that trigger the amount of energy we assimilate from food. This in turn may influence the amount of calories absorbed, thus resulting in weight gain. Other studies show that the gut microbial community regulates the expression of genes that affect the production of adipocytes (fat cells). Gut bacteria could also affect obesity by promoting chronic inflammatory status, which contributes to the development of insulin resistance, which is inherently implicated in metabolic disturbances.
Conclusions and dietary recommendations for optimal gut health
The key messages emerging from the latest scientific literature point towards the consumption of a diverse range of foods, comprising significant quantities of fibre, present in fruit, legumes, vegetables and whole grains, in conjunction with the consumption of nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, green tea and coffee to reap the benefits of the fibre and antioxidant potential of the foods. This will support your digestive health by promoting the growth of good bacteria to improve the gut flora profile.
Reducing your intake of refined, processed foods that are rich in sugars and saturated fat is also advised.
Probiotics and prebiotics may also exert a beneficial impact on gut health maintenance. Prebiotics are nutrients found in foods that increase the growth and activity of friendly gut bacteria. The most common type of prebiotic is derived from the soluble fibre called inulin. Inulin is naturally present in onions, garlic, leeks, artichokes, asparagus and artichokes. The soluble fibres extracted from chicory roots will also exert similar gut functions.
Fermented foods will deliver probiotics, so-called friendly bacteria, which help to promote gut health. Fermented dairy such as yogurt or kefir will deliver the live active cultures that may boost healthy gut bacteria. Moreover, preliminary research has shown us that exercise increases the diversity of our gut microbiota.
Human gut bacterial species play a pivotal role in health, immunity and disease. A more thorough understanding of our microbiome holds the key to the development of therapeutic strategies to manipulate microbiota, helping to combat disease and improve health.
The science in this area is continually evolving and growing. As such, by adopting healthier eating practices you will be laying down the foundations for an enhanced gastrointestinal health, which will in turn be beneficial for general immune wellbeing and keep at bay chronic diseases. It is important to note that the microbiome modulation may already commence very early on, at birth.