It seems only natural to consider diet (what one inputs into their digestive tract) as a significant factor in the health of one’s guts (the very vessels where food is broken down, digested, absorbed, stored and eliminated from). Yet, after decades of seeing various gastrointestinal specialists, myself, for ulcerative colitis, diet was never suggested as a potential “treatment” for irritable bowel disease, or even a consideration (in fact, the only ‘dietary advice’ I received was to “avoid broccoli and beans” and “stick to white bread”). Rather, the focus was always on limiting inflammation by various medications (anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, etc.). Meanwhile there are many whole foods and nutrients found in diet that also inhibit or reduce inflammation (turmeric, omega-3 fatty acids found in nuts and fatty fish, fiber, dark green veggies such as spinach, collards and yes… broccoli – to name just a few)!
Just last week, Canada’s Minister of Health, Jane Philpott announced five new research projects as part of the Government of Canada’s Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research. One of the studies, through the University of Calgary, will focus on … drum roll…. gut bacteria and its effect on bowel disease!!!
Here is the report from Global News on March 31, 2016.
I’m so happy to see this new study being done in Canada and hope it will bring the importance of nutrients, diet, and gut microflora to the forefront of health determinants – not only for those suffering with irritable bowel diseases like Crohn’s and colitis, but many other chronic, inflammatory and auto-immune diseases.
A number of studies have been done on the relationship between gut microbes (the bacteria living in our bowels) and immune system health.
Earlier this year I read a journal article on the effects of food additives on intestinal permeability – where many of the “extras” (emulsifiers, glucose, organic solvents, etc.) added to processed foods were shown to have implications on bowel permeability.
This is part of the reason why, when I look at a food label, my focus is on the quantity and quality of ingredients listed. Better yet, I try to stick to unprocessed, unrefined whole foods (that either don’t necessitate a label, or only contain 1 or 2 ingredients) – and make my own food at home as much as possible.
I’m not concerned with the number of calories – I prefer to focus on the nutritional value and where the food came from. Though only required by the body in very small amounts, micronutrients like iron, calcium, zinc, and B vitamins are just as important as macronutrients like fats and carbohydrates.
Anyway, that’s another topic – but for now, I’m excited for this new research and its potential to help many people – simply through diet!
I have spoken to my gastroenterologist about participation in the study, so I will see if I ‘qualify’.
References and good reads (or views):
University of Calgary study on diet, gut bacteria and irritable bowel disease. April 5, 2016.
Changes in intestinal tight junction permeability associated with industrial food additives explain the rising incidence of autoimmune disease. Aaron Lerner, Torsten Matthias. Autoimmunity Reviews. June 2015
The role of immunomodulators on intestinal barrier homeostasis in experimental models. Marian Emilia Rabelo Andrade. Raquel Silva Araujo. Patrícia Aparecida Vieira de Barros. Anne Danieli Nascimento Soares. Fernanda Alves Abrantes. Simone de Vasconcelos Generoso. Simone Odília Antunes Fernandes. Valbert Nascimento Cardoso. Clinical Nutrition. December 2015
GI tract bacteria may protect against autoimmune disease. Science Daily. January 2013
Fecal transplants and gut bacteria: The Power of Poop. Freakonomics Radio (podcast and transcript). March 2011
High dietary fiber intake linked to health promoting short chair fatty acids. Science Daily. September 2015
Fermentation Revival by Sandor Katz (youtube) … <3 this