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Food As Medicine: Understanding The Importance Of Food To Gut Health

This article was originally published on Forbes by Julia Olayanju

Gut health is emerging as a new lifestyle approach that will drive change in the food and beverage industry. According to Schieber research, U.S. consumers have been adopting different strategies to manage their health through careful food and beverage consumption

Scientific evidence continues to emerge showing the role of food in management of gut microbiome and overall health. Work by Zhao & colleagues published here highlights how high fiber diets boost growth of healthy microbiome as well as improved regulation of blood glucose. Gut microbiome  has also been linked with obesity. For consumers already eager to find effective strategies for weight management and other diet-related challenges gut health is gaining attention.

To develop a better understanding of gut health and how it could influence food choices three physicians and thought leaders in the food industry share their thoughts on this topic. Some of these experts are also speakers at the Food Health and Technology Summit where scientists, educators, food industry leaders will be sharing will  be sharing their insights on factors shaping consumer mindsets and driving change in the food industry.

People should pay attention to their gut health because it directly impacts not only their health now but also their health in the future as well.  Most of our immune system is located in the gut and the food we eat directly interacts with our immune system. Many chronic diseases are related to the inflammatory pathways of the immune system.  Practical conversations people can have with their health care provider include: the type of food to eat that can strengthen their gut health. They need to also ask about the foods to avoid as well. Fiber is very important to gut health and for maintenance for a healthy gut microbiome.  We have a fiber deficiency in our country. Only 5% of Americans reach the daily minimum intake of fiber which is around 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day. —Micah Yu, M.D. MHA

Gut health is at the very core of our immunity, vitality and mental agility. Studies have shown that maintaining a “healthy gut,” or balanced intestinal microbiome, can help facilitate proper immune function, supports mental health, improve anxiety and keep chronic diseases at bay, just to name a few. It’s really an incredible ecosystem that supports health on so many levels. While genetics and environment certainly play a role, the good news is that much of the work to balance this important microbiome can be done through diet and lifestyle changes. In order to support a healthy microbiome, you can consume a vast array of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fiber and reduce consumption of foods that cause inflammation, like fried foods, packaged foods and alcohol. I also believe that probiotics, microorganisms that you can get from fermented foods or from supplements, and prebiotics, a type of fiber that feeds probiotics, are crucial tools in supporting gut health. Different probiotic and prebiotic supplements contain different strains and amounts, so you would definitely want to speak with your health care provider about choosing the right one for you. The microbiome is actually an amazing example of how all of the systems in the human body are interconnected, reinforcing how important it is to approach your overall health from a holistic perspective. —Serena Poon, Nutritionist and Founder & CEO Just Add Water.

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