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Nutrition News: A Healthy Gut

Charlyn Fargo on

You've probably heard how important gut health is to your immune system and to lowering your risk for diseases. The trillions of bacteria that live in our guts are intimately intertwined with our metabolism. They play roles in digestion and nutrient absorption and help maintain our intestinal lining. They may even help preserve muscle as we age.

But just how do you get "good" gut health?

It all boils down the right bacteria living in your gut. You can help the good bacteria grow by eating probiotics -- foods with live cultures, such as yogurt, kombucha and fiber. These all serve as food for the bacteria.

According to a new study, equally important is consuming a high-quality diet. Just what makes a diet high-quality?

Researchers from the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston assessed the quality of study participants' diets using the Healthy Eating Index based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The HEI is a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in added sugars, alcohol and solid fats. Sound familiar? That diet correlated with more beneficial bacteria.

Participants with a low-quality diet -- high in added sugars, alcohol and solid fats and low in fruits, vegetables and whole grains -- had an increase in a potentially harmful bacteria called Fusobacterium, which has been linked to colorectal cancer.

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Researchers assessed the bacteria by doing a colonoscopy on participants and looking at the health of the colon samples. Diets were evaluated by a food frequency questionnaire before the colonoscopy.

Here's the bottom line: Before you go on that higher-fat diet (think keto here), consider what it might do to your gut bacteria. If you take antibiotics, consider adding probiotics to your daily routine. Most important, eat healthy rather than going on any "diet" that limits -- or worse yet, eliminates -- entire food groups. Prepare more meals at home and try to eat more whole foods.

Your gut will thank you.

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