Eating or drinking a lot of animal products, processed foods, alcohol and sugar ensures that inflammatory activity in the body can develop earlier via the composition of the intestinal bacteria. A diet rich in plant foods will have the opposite effect. This is evident from research by Rinse Weersma, Laura Bolte and Arnau Vich Vila of the UMCG’s Gastroenterology and Liver Diseases and Genetics departments.
The composition and amount of bacteria in the gut has a direct influence on the balance of anti-inflammatory and stimulating reactions in the gut. This affects immunity and also increases the risk of inflammatory conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and heart disease.
While much research is being done on anti-inflammatory effects of specific nutrients, little is known about the influence of foods and dietary patterns as a whole on the composition of the gut microbiome and how they can consequently influence inflammatory responses in the gut.
To find out, the researchers looked at the interaction between diet, gut bacteria and intestinal inflammation in people with intestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome and in people with normal healthy intestines. The stools of all participants in the study were analyzed and they completed a questionnaire to get a good idea of their dietary patterns. In total, the researchers analyzed 173 dietary factors and their relationship to the gut microbiome.
The research shows that a high intake of processed foods and animal-derived foods lead to extra inflammatory activities of bacteria. Plant foods and fish, on the other hand, have been associated with “friendly” bacteria and anti-inflammatory activity.
Eating nuts, fatty fish, fruits, vegetables and grains has been linked to a higher amount of bacteria that produce short-chain fatty acids: these acids help control inflammation and protect the integrity of the cells lining the gut. A limited amount of red wine also has this effect.
The study also shows that less healthy activities of the bacteria can be associated with: total alcohol intake, spirits and sugar, coffee and a fast food cluster of meat, chips, mayonnaise and soft drinks. In fact, associated with anti-inflammatory bacteria are: dairy products such as buttermilk and yogurt, food clusters of bread, legumes, such as lentils, peas and chickpeas; fish and nuts.
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