Improving your Metabolism via Your Gut Health

Picture of Liz Forsyth

Liz Forsyth

The human gut harbours more than 100 trillion microbial cells, which have an essential role in regulating metabolic processes as they interact with us as the host. Metabolic diseases like obesity and Type 2 Diabetes can occur when the body’s usual metabolic processes for storing and using energy are disturbed. Did you know, the gut microbiome plays a large part in these processes? It has been shown to play more of a part than even genetic variants and susceptibility. The gut environment has been shown to be the key factor driving metabolic processes. Let's take a lesson and deep dive into your gut!

In the normal metabolic process, your gut bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids and molecules called bile acids that help our body store or use energy appropriately. For example, some short chain fatty acids called butyrate and propionate bind to receptors in the gut cells that trigger the release of hormones that lower blood sugar levels and reduce appetite.

When gut bacteria are out of balance, there are often high levels of bacteria that produce an inflammatory molecule called ‘Lipopolysaccharide’ or LPS. This inflammatory molecule is produced by the bacteria living in your gut. In the case of people with type 2 diabetes, people who carry excess body fat and those who are insulin resistant, LPS in the gut has been has been shown to be higher than usual. These high levels lead to inflammation of fat tissue. In the long term, this fat tissue inflammation can in turn drive insulin resistance and glucose intolerance. 

Plant diversity plays a crucial role in promoting a healthy gut microbiome, which is essential for overall health and well-being. Including a wide variety of plant-based foods in our diet can provide numerous benefits for our gut health.

Eating a wide variety of any types of plants including fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts, seeds and whole grains such as quinoa might sound like a boring goal but the positive effect on the health of your body is much bigger than you might think.

Christen-Lee Bezuidenhout, Accredited Practising Dietitian

1. Increased fibre intake: Different plant-based foods contain various types of dietary fiber, including soluble and insoluble fiber. These fibres act as prebiotics, which serve as nourishment for beneficial gut bacteria. By consuming a diverse range of plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, we can increase our fibre intake and support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

2. Enhanced microbial diversity: A diverse range of plant-based foods introduces a wide array of nutrients, antioxidants, and phytochemicals to our gut. These compounds can have a positive impact on the composition and diversity of our gut microbiota. A more diverse microbiome is associated with better digestion, improved immune function, reduced inflammation, and a lower risk of certain diseases.

3. Improved digestion and nutrient absorption: Plant-based foods contain enzymes and natural compounds that support healthy digestion and nutrient absorption. For example, consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables provides enzymes like amylase and cellulase, which aid in the breakdown of carbohydrates and fiber. Additionally, plant foods contain polyphenols, which can improve gut barrier function and enhance nutrient absorption.

4. Reduced inflammation: Chronic inflammation in the gut can lead to various health issues. Plant-based foods, particularly those rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, can help reduce inflammation in the gut. Examples of such foods include berries, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, turmeric, ginger, and green tea. By incorporating a diverse range of these foods, we can support a healthy inflammatory response in the gut.

5. Support for gut motility: Plant-based foods, especially those high in fiber, can help promote regular bowel movements and prevent constipation. Fibre adds bulk to the stool, allowing it to move more easily through the digestive tract. Additionally, certain plant foods, like prunes and kiwi, contain natural compounds that can support gut motility and alleviate digestive discomfort.

Incorporating a wide variety of plant-based foods into our diet is key to reaping the benefits of plant diversity on gut health. Aim to include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds from different food groups and colors. It's important to note that gradually increasing fibre intake and staying adequately hydrated are essential when introducing more plant-based foods to ensure optimal gut health.

A Dietitian is a qualified health professional who can help you with your gut health nutrition. For more information on how to get started click here.

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