There are a number of ways the gut flora in your body play a role in optimal health. Recent research points to diet as a key player.
Type 2 Diabetes and Inflammation
Endotoxins in gut bacteria can cause inflammation as they pass through the gut wall, and often appear in high levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Inflammation and high endotoxin levels are also associated with high-fat, low-fiber diets, known contributors to type 2 diabetes risk. A plant-based diet increases fiber and helps to protect against type 2 diabetes.
Gut bacteria creates butyrate, a compound that may inhibit cancer cell growth, when it breaks down fiber. High-fat diets release excess bile into the gut to help process extra fat, which certain bacteria may convert into cancer-causing substances. A high-fiber dietary pattern and the resulting production of butyrate and related substances, along with healthy gut bacteria, are associated with a reduced risk of precancerous colon growths. Other findings indicate that the interaction between low-fiber, high-fat diets and gut bacteria could increase the risk of developing colon cancer.
How to Maintain Healthful Gut Bacteria
While probiotics can help diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and other specific conditions, what else can you do to maintain healthy gut flora? A whole-foods, plant-based diet ensures enough fiber for healthy gut bacteria cultivation. Special types of fiber called prebiotics can feed gut microbes linked to good health. Foods high in prebiotic fiber include leeks, asparagus, artichokes, garlic, onions, and soybeans. Starchy foods such as potatoes can help produce butyrate to ensure a healthy colon. Gut bacteria—a powerful “forgotten organ”–can help limit disease risk and promote good health.
Reprinted from The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Tip of the Day
Pump up that iron. Many beans, peas, and soy products are naturally low in fat and are packed with iron and protein. Use them in side dishes or as a main entree.