How Feeding Your Gut Can Fight Off Disease

4 minute read

Countless studies have confirmed that the gut microbiome plays an essential role in more than digestion; it is integral to your overall health. A new study, published in Nature Medicine, has shown specifically how your diet shapes your microbiome and how these bacteria, in turn, can influence your disease risk. It is not so much a case of ‘you are what you eat’, but rather ‘you are what your bacteria eats’.  

The knowledge of the gut microbiome’s protective role in the body has led researchers to try and understand how the microbiome factors into the risk of developing certain diseases, such as heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. This has previously been difficult to test as a result of differences between individuals and diets. By using metagenomic sequencing to analyze the microbiome composition, this theory can now be tested. 

A study with 1,100 participants was conducted with the goal of developing a better understanding of how diet, the microbiome, and disease risk are linked. In addition to genetic material, researchers recorded age, weight, body mass index, and blood pressure for each participant. They also detailed dietary intake data and information on a variety of factors known to influence metabolism and disease risk, such as blood sugar, cholesterol, and inflammation. 

The results identified that specific gut microbes were associated with specific nutrients and overall diet composition. Conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity were also found to be impacted the most by diet-influenced microbiome changes. From the findings, researchers were able to determine that:

♦ Less healthy diets (high in processed foods, fats, sugars) supported bacterial strains that were linked with high cholesterol, high blood sugar levels, and inflammation. 

♦ Healthy dietary patterns (high in fruits, vegetables, and healthy animal foods such as fish) supported a more diverse microbiome linked to a lower risk of certain chronic diseases. 

Prebiotics friendly food

What does this mean for us? What you eat directly impacts your gut, shaping the composition of the bacteria within, and you can either nourish the beneficial strains or those linked to a higher risk of disease. A healthy diet provides essential nutrients to every system in the body, but with the gut microbiome playing such a substantial role in overall health, it is important to feed it too. 

Healthy dietary patterns such as the pescatarian or Mediterranean eating patterns have now been associated with the foods and nutrients that feed the good bacteria in your gut. Allowing your microbiome to thrive strengthens your gut and overall health and supports protection against the risk of chronic disease. 

Journal Reference

Asnicar F, et al. Microbiome connections with host metabolism and habitual diet from 1,098 deeply phenotyped individuals. Nat Med. 2021 Feb;27(2):321-332.