Over recent years, scientists are discovering more and more just how crucial a role your gut health plays in your health and wellbeing. The evidence shows the health of your gut can influence everything from weight gain to healthy brain function! The gut microbiome is a delicately balanced community of ‘team players’ working hard every day to keep you healthy. In this article, our amazing expert in gut health, Microbiologist Ms Andrea Kazoullis will explain the fascinating science behind the gut microbiome. As well, she addresses the evidence pointing to how beneficial the Mediterranean Diet is for gut health.
A Healthy Gut = A Healthy You. How the gut microbiome reacts to your lifestyle and diet
By Microbiologist Ms Andrea Kazoullis
The human body contains communities of bacteria, fungi and viruses that outnumber human cells in the body by a factor of ten to one. These communities (or microbiomes) live in communion with human hosts and perform many beneficial duties including synthesising essential vitamins and minerals and act as defenders against external pathogens. They also influence everything from weight gain to healthy brain function.
For example, the skin microbiome consists of 1000 species of bacteria; the respiratory tract microbiome, including the mouth and pharynx, contains 600 plus species of bacteria and fungi. The skin and respiratory tract microbiomes contain a smaller number of species that vary during dis-ease of the host.
The gut microbiome is the most varied in number and species of bacteria with 500 – 1000 species thus far identified. Though dis-ease of a host has an impact on the number and diversity of the gut microbiome, the daily consumption of various foods also influences the changes seen in the gut microbiome.
Research into the association between dietary intake and the impact on the gut microbiome has grown exponentially in the last decade. The diagram below is from a research paper in 2017 with the title “Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health.” The authors systematically reviewed the latest data regarding the effects of several common dietary components including protein, fats, digestible carbohydrates (starch, sugars), non-digestible carbohydrates (fibre), probiotics, polyphenols, and explored the ability of the host diet to modify gut bacteria. They looked at several popular diets which have been studied extensively for their ability to modulate the intestinal microbiota. These diets include Western, gluten-free, omnivore, vegetarian, vegan, and Mediterranean.
Overall the Mediterranean diet was regarded as a healthy balanced diet characterised by beneficial fatty acids rich in both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids; high levels of antioxidants, high intake of fibre and other low glycemic carbohydrates, and a greater intake of vegetables over protein. Olive oil, assorted fruits, vegetables, cereals, legumes, and nuts; moderate consumption of fish, poultry, and red wine; and a lower intake of dairy products, red meat, processed meat and sweets characterise the traditional Mediterranean diet.
Another research article published in 2017 by Sandu et.al., titled “Feeding the microbiota-gut-brain axis: diet, microbiome and neuropsychiatry.”, showed the growing evidence that the microbial population in the gut plays a key role in the regulation of behaviour and brain function. There is bi-directional communication between the gut microbiota and the brain which occurs through various pathways including the immune system, neuroendocrine pathways and bacteria-derived metabolites. A non-Western vs. a Western diet shows changes in the gut microbiota composition with subsequent changes in short chain fatty acids (SCFA). Significant changes in behaviour profiles (anxiety and depression) have been hypothesised to come from diet-induced changes within the microbiota-gut-brain axis.
Diet provides the substrate for the gut microbiota, while the gut microbiota controls the diet uptake through its impact on the release of satiety hormone (feeling of being satisfied). Finally, food intake is controlled by the brain, following the integration of peripheral signals that have come from the interaction of microbiota-derived metabolites from diet fermentation and gut intestinal cells.
Hear Andrea speak at our Mediterranean Diet Expo
Andrea is one of our guest speakers at our upcoming Mediterrranean Diet Expo. Come along on October 27 at the Brisbane Greek Club, to hear all about how diet can impact our gut health, and in turn impact our health and wellbeing in so many ways. She’s speaking from 2:00 – 2:30 pm. Andrea will join a host of health experts who are passionate about how diet can impact our health – from our heads to our toes!MEDITERRANEAN DIET EXPO
What are the Ground Rules for the Mediterranean Diet?
Want to know a bit more about what the Mediterranean Diet is all about? Two Greek Girls give you a FREE guide to the basics of Mediterranean eating.MEDITERRANEAN DIET RULES