Gut Flora: The Hidden Key to Health and Wellness - Part 3
Lessons from Mice and Men
As the animal and human studies in Gut Flora: The Hidden Key to Health and Wellness Part - 2 demonstrated, eating a traditional “Western” diet–high in sugar, fat, and toxic additives such as high fructose corn syrup–causes imbalances in your intestinal microbiota that lead to obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. On the other hand, the research showed that adhering to a plant-based, low fat, and low carbohydrate diet facilitates a healthy, vigorous state. So, which foods should you avoid and which should you embrace to establish balanced and diverse microbiota? Please see the list below:
Foods to Shun for Healthy Gut Flora
Avoid foods with processed and refined sugar and additives–emulsifiers, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, modified food starch, colorings, etc.–and carbohydrate-dense foods, including white bread, pasta, cereals, potatoes, pastries, crackers, chips, condiments, soda, candy, etc.
Part 2 provided compelling evidence substantiating the negative health effects of consuming these foods. Still, it is worth noting that the Harvard School of Public Health also asserts that these “bad” carbohydrates heighten your risk of chronic disease. Harvard states the following:
“Unhealthier sources of carbohydrates include white bread, pastries, sodas, and other highly processed or refined foods. These items contain easily digested carbohydrates that may contribute to weight gain, interfere with weight loss, and promote diabetes and heart disease. The healthiest sources of carbohydrates—unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans—promote good health by delivering vitamins, minerals, fiber, and a host of important phytonutrients.”
Eschew foods high in “bad” saturated and trans fats, such as fast foods, fried foods (i.e. french fries, fried chicken, chips, donuts, etc.), and most packaged goods
Part 2 discussed a study published in the journal Cell Host and Microbe. The research subjects ate a high fat, “Western” diet, which led to dysbiosis (intestinal microbial imbalances) and consequently obesity. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the table below shows the top sources of fat in the typical American’s diet. Today the “typical” American is overweight or obese, as 69% of the US population suffers from this chronic ailment that increases the risk of heart disease (#1 killer in the US), hypertension (high blood pressure), type 2 diabetes, cancer, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, and more. This information further validates the study. Eating a “Western” diet leads to fatal health hazards.
Avoid heated, refined, and processed oils, like those found in the aforementioned packaged and processed goods, dairy products, and meats as well as those plant oils used for cooking
The unsaturated, plant oils (corn oil, safflower oil, canola oil, etc.) commonly found in packaged and processed goods etc. are harmful. During production, these foods are exposed to air, heat, and light, all of which triggers oxidative rancidity, the chemical decomposition and degradation of fats by oxygen. This process chemically transforms the oil’s nutrient-dense fatty acids into toxic trans fats while simultaneously creating free radicals and destroying the oil’s natural antioxidants. Without antioxidants to neutralize the free radicals, these biological terrorists cause cellular mutations in the body and damage the immune system, facilitating the onset of various maladies, from heart disease to cancer. (See Oil and Fat - Part 2)
Most meat and dairy products contain saturated fats. Yes, even skinless, boneless chicken breast does. Still, you must evaluate the fat source. While you may consider consuming less meat, you can more liberally enjoy raw coconut oil and raw nuts and seeds, all of which provide healthy sources of saturated fat and are discussed further below.
For cooking, raw coconut oil is best, as it remains stable and resists rancidity at high temperatures.
Shun antibiotics and other medications
Antibiotics disrupt the gut flora’s ecology and activities. Research shows that these drugs can deplete flora diversity, curtail the intestinal microbiota’s key metabolic and immune functions, and diminish its capacity to produce certain proteins. These changes make you more susceptible to infectious agents and disease.
Foods to Eat for Healthy Gut Flora
Relish plant-derived carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
The study reported in Part 2 from the The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology plainly showed that a plant-based diet establishes a balanced and diverse intestinal microbiota that leads to health and vitality. The American Heart Association agrees. The organization states that Americans need to not only evaluate the QUANTITY of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that they eat, but also scrutinize their QAULITY.
Not All Carbohydrates, Fats, and Proteins Are Created Equal. Choose Wisely for Robust Intestinal Flora and Overall Well-being
Did a doctor ever advise you to stop eating fruits and vegetables because their consumption would increase the likelihood that you develop heart disease, obesity, cancer, or other chronic diseases? Probably not, and if your physician did, you may want to consider changing your service provider. Fruits and vegetables contain abundant vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fiber, antioxidants, wholesome fats, amino acids, and water. They are also carbohydrates, but GOOD carbohydrates. While someone suffering from diabetes, candida, or intestinal parasites may need to limit their intake of certain fruits and vegetables that contain high amounts of sugar, a healthy individual can and should consume a large assortment of fresh produce.
While produce provides the carbohydrates that you need, your body also requires fats and proteins. (Note that nearly all fruits and vegetables provide some protein and fat.) Steak or an ice cream sundae can deliver both, along with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. Who wants that?!?! Accordingly, selecting GOOD proteins and fats is critical. Raw nuts and seeds are rich sources of both, while cold-pressed olive oil and raw coconut oil provide an abundance of the latter. For example, research shows that raw almonds, which abound in monounsaturated fat and protein, lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol and consequently diminish your risk of cardiovascular disease. Similarly, studies indicate that raw walnuts, an excellent source of polyunsaturated fat, also reduce cholesterol levels and possess anti-cancerous properties. Eating various raw nuts, including those aforementioned as well as Brazil nuts, pecans, hazelnuts, pistachios, and other varieties, is best. Moreover, cold-pressed olive oil richly supplies nourishing monounsaturated fat. Research shows that it helps reduce cardiovascular disease and certain cancers, while studies reveal that coconut oil possesses anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-parasitic properties, not to mention that this largely saturated fat actually facilitates weight loss! (Please see Oil and Fat - Part I). Additionally, eating avocados, which supply 9 of the 10 essential amino acids, daily and wild fish one to two times per week, are other highly recommended choices if you desire “meatier” options.
Indulge in prebiotics
Prebiotics are insoluble (does not dissolve in water) fiber and plant-derived carbohydrates that are indigestible. All prebiotics are fibers; however, not all fibers are prebiotics. Fiber generally plays numerous roles in the body, such as facilitating waste transit and removal from the colon, improving blood sugar control, aiding weight loss by creating feelings of satiety, lowering cholesterol levels, and much more.
Prebiotics play an additional, very-specific function in the body. They stimulate the activity and growth of the intestinal microbiota, the 100 trillion bugs living inside your gut. Prebiotics include asparagus, onions, garlic, and artichokes. Eat them in abundance!
• Decrease the incidence and duration of infectious microorganisms and antibiotic-associated diarrhea
• Alleviate symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease
• Reduce inflammation
• Increase absorption and assimilation of minerals
• Diminish risk of cardiovascular disease
• Preclude obesity and encourage satiety
According to the World Health Organization, probiotics are “live micro-organisms that confer a health benefit on the host when administered in adequate amounts.”
Probiotics are live bugs - good gut bacteria!!! Thank goodness you can’t actually see them when you eat them! You can consume probiotics as a supplement or in food. Probiotics provide an excellent way to help reestablish the ideal balance of good bacteria in your intestinal microbiota to ensure you are healthy and vital.
Conclusion: Yes, as Gut Flora: The Hidden Key to Health and Wellness - Part I explained, if you were born via Cesarean section and fed formula as an infant, your intestinal microbiota is less rich and diverse, making you more susceptible to disease. Nonetheless, you can alter this reality through diet!
Stay tuned for the upcoming article exploring probiotics in-depth and the disease-fighting and protective benefits they offer!!!