How Fermented Foods Can Alter Your Microbiome and Improve Your Health

Higher levels of gut microbiome diversity are generally considered a good thing. Studies have linked it to a drop obesity rate , Type 2 ...


Higher levels of gut microbiome diversity are generally considered a good thing. Studies have linked it to a drop obesity rate, Type 2 diabetes, metabolic disease and other ailments. People who live in industrialized countries tend to have less microbial diversity in their gut than those who live in more traditional, non-industrialized societies. Some scientists believe that modern lifestyle factors such as Diets high in processed foods, chronic stress and physical inactivity can suppress the growth of potentially beneficial gut microbes. Others argue that the correlation between microbiome diversity and good health is exaggerated, and that the low levels of microbiome diversity typically seen in people living in developed countries may be well adapted to a modern world.

One topic on which there is generally little disagreement among nutrition experts is that of the benefits of a high fiber diet. In large studies, people who eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other high-fiber foods tend to have lower death rates and less chronic disease. Fiber is considered good for gut health: microbes in the gut feed on fiber and use it to produce beneficial byproducts like short-chain fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation. Some studies also suggest that eating lots of fiber promotes a diverse microbiome.

Stanford researchers expected that consuming a high-fiber diet would have a big impact on the makeup of the microbiome. Instead, the fiber-rich group tended to show little change in their microbial diversity. But when scientists took a closer look, they found something striking. People who started with higher levels of microbial diversity had reduced inflammation on the high-fiber diet, while those who had the least microbial diversity had a slight increase in inflammation when they ate more. of fiber.

The researchers said they suspected that people with low microbiome diversity may not have the right microbes to digest all the fiber they eat. A finding that supports this: The high-fiber group had unexpected amounts of carbohydrates in their stools that had not been broken down by their gut microbes. One possibility is that their intestines may have needed more time to adjust to the high-fiber diet. But ultimately, this finding could explain why some people experience bloating and other uncomfortable gastrointestinal issues when they eat a lot of fiber, said Christopher Gardner, another study author.

“Maybe the challenges some people face with fiber are that their microbiomes aren’t prepared for it,” said Dr. Gardner, director of nutritional studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center.

One question researchers hope to answer in the future is what would happen if people simultaneously ate more fermented foods and more fiber. Would this increase the variety of microbes in their intestines and improve their ability to digest more fiber? Would the two have a synergistic effect on inflammation?

Suzanne Devkota, director of microbiome research at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, who was not involved in the new study, said consuming fermented foods has long been speculated to have effects. beneficial to health, but that new research provides some of the first “hard evidence” that it can influence gut and inflammation. “We’ve always been a little reluctant to comment on beneficial fermented foods, especially from an inflammatory standpoint, because there really wasn’t any data behind it,” she said.

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