How A Whole Food Plant- Based Diet Improves Gut Health
My keen interest in gut health began after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease back in 2010. After seeing my health decline with medical intervention, I keenly researched the impacts of different foods on our guts and came across the whole food plant based way of eating. I immediately started to move towards this way of eating and with some guidance from a health coach I was able to get off medications and now I have a life after Crohn’s!
Researchers commonly refer to our gut as our second brain (1) and this isn’t without reason. As 70% of our immune cells reside in our gut, a healthy gut can be thought of as the foundation to health. Our human cells are outnumbered by 10 to 1 by the bacteria and microbes that live mostly in our gut. The latest research shows that the health of our gut microbiome has a profound effect on our immune system, and can affect autoimmune diseases both inside and outside the gut (2).
We can make simple lifestyle decisions to promote good gut health, such as only using antibiotics when absolutely necessary and reducing stress, but diet also has a huge impact. The key difference between a whole food plant based diet and all other diets is fibre. Every whole food consumed at each meal time provides an abundance of fibre, which is great news for our gut health! Why? It’s simple – all whole unrefined plant foods encourage our healthy gut bacteria to proliferate. These good bacteria feed off fibre and produce short chain fatty acids such as butyrate, that have
potent anti-inflammatory properties (3). Furthermore, eating a diet rich in fibre helps to regulate healthy formed stools with a proper transit time, combatting common digestive issues such as constipation and diarrhoea.
Insoluble fibre (which is only found in plant foods) passes through our digestive system intact, making us feel full and satisfied without added calories. Therefore a diet centred around whole plant foods that are naturally high in fibre is a great way to maintain a healthy body weight! Excellent sources of insoluble fibre include whole grains, root vegetables and fruits with edible seeds. The fibre we get from whole natural foods have the added benefit of flattening the glycemic response, which has a positive effect on blood sugar (4). This helps us to sustain our energy levels throughout the day, without the sugar rushes and crashes that I’m sure we’ve all experienced from processed foods full of refined sugar!