Fermented Foods Increase Friendly Gut Bacteria, Reduce Inflammation and Help Regulate Immune Function
Source: Journal Cell (July 2021)
Lifestyle Medicine Update (July 14, 2021)
A study published in the journal Cell in July 2021 showed the value of eating fermented foods in supporting the gut microflora and reducing markers for systemic inflammation throughout the body and helping to regulate the immune system in a positive way. To put this into context, the human large intestine is home to 400-500 different bacteria and other species that are essential to our survival, immune function, and other health parameters. Studies on patients with inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis indicate that the more diverse the gut microflora (meaning the greater the number of different kinds of bacteria, especially friendly anaerobic bacteria like lactobacillus and Bifidus strains), the less likely one is to develop inflammatory bowel diseases, the more competent is the immune system with less propensity for systemic local gut and system inflammation to occur.
High numbers of these, and other friendly bacteria, also help to crowd out unfriendly bacteria that can cause diarrhea, gut inflammation, and infection, as well as exerting negative effects on digestion, elimination, detoxification, immune function, and other aspects of health. As well, having high numbers of unfriendly gut bacteria may also contribute to the development of colon cancer – the second leading cause of cancer death in North America and much of the Western World. On the other hand, having high concentrations of friendly gut bacteria is shown to improve immune function, reduce bowel toxins and improve the digestive process in ways that are beneficial to the management of irritable bowel syndrome, and the suppression of inflammatory processes. As such, studies showing that a dietary strategy can increase the number and diversity of friendly gut bacteria and reduce markers for systemic inflammation are of great significance. No drugs can do this.
In the study published in July 2021 researchers instructed half the subjects to consume a diet that included their choice of various fermented foods (high in friendly bacteria), such as yogurt, kefir, fermented cottage cheese, kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage dish), pickled turnips, sauerkraut, other fermented vegetables, as well as kombucha tea. The more of these fermented foods the subjects consumed over the 10-week trial period the greater became the biodiversity of their gut-friendly gut bacteria, and the lower was their markers of systemic inflammation. This was assessed by pre and post studies of their stool samples and by evaluating 19 blood markers for systemic inflammation. As well, certain immune cells in their body showed less activation, which would be highly beneficial for patients with Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, as well as in Rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases. One of the problems in modern society is that many people are walking around with dysbiosis, which means that the gut microflora contains too little friendly bacteria, lacks diversity of friendly gut bacteria, and is overpopulated with unfriendly gut bacteria that can do harm to us. This common state (dysbiosis) is a direct result of the overuse of antibiotics, which kill gut-friendly bacteria, the consumption of more and more refined, processed foods, less reliance on high fiber foods, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes, and the use of antibiotics in animal feed to speed their growth (some of those antibiotics find their way into the human food through dairy and meat products.) This combination of factors tends to reduce the gut biodiversity of friendly gut bacteria and set the stage for a host of intestinal tract problems, compromised immunity, greater susceptibility to gut and systemic inflammation, and possibly other health problems like autoimmune diseases.
What this study confirms is that we can make a positive change in our gut diversity and concentrations of friendly gut bacteria by simply consuming more naturally fermented foods, like the ones I have spoken about here. In fact, in just 10-weeks, you can significantly increase your gut biodiversity and colonies of gut-friendly bacteria by doing so. And this can have substantial health benefits for you going forward. It may also be wise to take a full-spectrum probiotic supplement and be more cognizant of consuming higher fiber foods, which provide nourishment for the friendly gut bacteria, enabling them to reproduce, thrive, and crowd out the unfriendly, more dangerous gut bacteria with whom they continually compete for real estate with your large bowel. If you have digestive or inflammatory issues, sometimes adding a supplement with digestive enzymes and prebiotics can also be helpful. With respect to the July 2021 study, maybe think about how you can incorporate more fermented foods into your diet if it hasn’t been something that’s been on your radar to this point.
I have included the references for this information in the test below.
Hannah C. Wastyk, Gabriela K. Fragiadakis, Dalia Perelman, Dylan Dahan, Bryan D. Merrill, Feiqiao B. Yu, Madeline Topf, Carlos G. Gonzalez, William Van Treuren, Shuo Han, Jennifer L. Robinson, Joshua E. Elias, Erica D. Sonnenburg, Christopher D. Gardner, Justin L. Sonnenburg. Gut-microbiota-targeted diets modulate human immune status. Cell, 2021; https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(21)00754-6?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0092867421007546%3Fshowall%3Dtrue
Other Supporting References:
Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,
Dr. James Meschino
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. James Meschino, DC, MS, ROHP, is an educator, author, and researcher having lectured to thousands of healthcare professionals across North America. He holds a Master’s Degree in Science with specialties in human nutrition and biology and is recognized as an expert in the field of nutrition, anti-aging, fitness, and wellness as well as the author of numerous books.