FEEDING YOUR GUT MICROBIOME WITH PLANT-BASED KINDNESS

By Dr Sunni

Let’s address the elephant in the room. When someone declares they are on a plant-based diet to support their own gut health, it raises several questions. The first, always being why would someone want to go plant-based which then then escalates to conversations around being protein deficient, B12 and Iron deficient, as well as that ‘well-known’ risk of looking gaunt by losing so much weight!

That question is for several other blogs, but this article is going to cover the question that arises after the first. The second question being, how would plant-based eating help the body and support gut health?

I always simply answer by saying there is enough evidence for me that plants support my gut, the gut flora and microbiota. The fact that it alleviates some of my Crohn’s symptoms are kept aside, as they are purely observational and of course personal to me. However, there is evidence, though limited to support that plant-based diets can support good gut health.

We covered the gut in another article, and it is known that the gut and its environment; inhabited by 3 trillion micro-organisms play pivotal roles to our health. We also know that many factors influence the gut microbiota composition. In adult life, several factors, both dietary and non-dietary can cause gut dysbiosis. The former encompasses factors such as food, contaminants, food additives, prebiotics, probiotics, synbiotics, antibiotics, drug intake as well as alcohol abuse (1).

Unhealthy diets, typically comprising of high animal proteins, total and saturated fats, and simple sugars but low in fruits, vegetables, and fibre have been known to adversely impact gut microbiota composition because of the over-production of bile salts which reduces the gut biodiversity (2).

Whereas, plant-based diets rich in plant polysaccharides and fibre have been shown to increase the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), such as butyrate (3), and avoids the destruction of gut-beneficial saccharolitic bacteria to upkeep the diversity of gut microbiota (4).

I will be covering much more over the span of articles, but I hope by just reading this short synopsis you can see why I am compelled, and reassured, to tell the doubters of plant-based eating that I am doing just fine by choosing a plant-based diet, and if anything I am feeding (and not killing) my gut flora with kindness by doing so.

 

1. A Gagliardi et al., Rebuilding the Gut Microbiota Ecosystem. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Aug; 15(8): 1679.

2. LA David et al., Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome. Nature. 2014;505:559–563.

3. L Wedlake et al., Fiber in the treatment and maintenance of inflammatory bowel disease: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Inflamm. Bowel Dis. 2014;20:576–586

4. P Riccio. Diet, Gut Microbiota, and Vitamins D + A in Multiple Sclerosis. Neurotherapeutics. 2018 Jan; 15(1): 75–91.

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