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6 Simple Dietary Changes for Fast Results

By Gay Falkowski
vegetables-752153_1920-(1).jpgFor many of us, January is when we make resolutions that will change our lives for the better, if we can stick with them. It’s a favorite time for starting new diets and committing to healthy eating. Change isn’t always easy, though, and we can be tempted to fall back to old ways if we don’t see fast results. However, there are certain, simple changes you can make in your diet that can provide immediate health benefits, even if you can’t see or feel them — because they’re all happening in your gut!
Researchers have documented cases of people significantly altering their gut flora in one day simply by eating certain foods and avoiding others. While this may not be as exciting as losing five pounds in one day, the ability to quickly improve your gut flora (also known as gut microbiome) has important health implications for people with MS.
Recent scientific studies in mice suggest there may be subtle differences in gut bacteria between people with MS and people who do not have MS. They also provide evidence that these differences can affect the immune system in mice in a way that may influence the severity of MS. Though it’s still too soon to know how we might manipulate gut microbiome to treat or prevent disease, we do know balancing gut microbiome can improve our overall health.
The gut microbiome consists of trillions of microorganisms including thousands of different species — bacteria as well as fungi, parasites, and viruses. In a healthy person, these ‘bugs’ coexist peacefully. (Most of them thrive in the small and large intestines, though they also exist throughout the body.) But if infectious illnesses, certain diets, or the prolonged use of antibiotics or other bacteria-destroying medications create an imbalance in these normal interactions, the body may become more susceptible to disease.
So, if you’d like to make simple dietary changes with immediate results, here are some easy guidelines to help create a balanced, healthy gut microbiome:
1) Rotate your foods. Vary the types of foods you eat, focusing on whole foods. Each species of intestinal bacteria plays a different role in your health and requires different nutrients for growth. Generally, a diverse microbiome is considered to be a healthy one. This is because the more species of bacteria you have, the greater number of health benefits they may be able to contribute to.
2) Cut back on the bad stuff. Reduce intake of fat, sugar, processed foods, and artificial ingredients – they encourage the growth of harmful bacteria.
3) Eat your veggies. Eat lots of vegetables, legumes, beans, and fruit, as these foods are the best sources of nutrients for a healthy microbiome. High in fiber, they can be digested by certain bacteria in your gut, which stimulates the growth of more good bacteria there. One study found that following a diet high in fruits and vegetables prevented the growth of disease-causing bacteria. Some high-fiber foods that are good for your gut bacteria include:
  • Raspberries
  • Artichokes
  • Green peas
  • Broccoli
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Beans (kidney, pinto, and white)
4) Eat fermented foods. Fermented foods, particularly plain, natural yogurt, can benefit the microbiota by enhancing its function. Fermented foods have also been shown to reduce the abundance of disease-causing bacteria in the intestines. Many fermented foods are rich in lactobacilli, a type of bacteria with known health benefits. Examples of fermented foods include:
  • Yogurt
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Tempeh
5) Eat whole grains. Whole grains contain non-digestible carbs that can promote the growth of beneficial bacteria within the gut microbiota. These changes to the gut flora may improve certain aspects of metabolic health. In some studies, whole grains increased feelings of fullness, and reduced inflammation and heart disease risk factors. Examples of whole grains include:
  • Whole oats
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Barley
  • Whole wheat
6) Eat foods rich in polyphenols. Polyphenols are plant compounds that have many health benefits, including reductions in blood pressure, inflammation, cholesterol levels, and oxidative stress. Since polyphenols aren’t always absorbed efficiently, most make their way to the colon, where they can be digested by gut bacteria. Good sources of polyphenols include:
  • Cocoa and dark chocolate
  • Red wine
  • Grape skins
  • Green tea
  • Almonds
  • Onions
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli