It turns out it’s not necessarily about what you eat – it’s about what time you eat. New research has found that the gut microbiome thrives under a particular set of rules.
We often hear of the importance of what we put on our plates when it comes to a healthy body. Veggies, wholegrains and protein – you know the drill. But this latest study has shown the frequency of eating and the amount of food are also contributors.
Our gut microbiome is the key to disease prevention, a robust immune system and even supportive of our mental health too. It’s made up of trillions of bacteria, and in order to strike a healthy balance of good and bad microbes, you’ve probably heard about how important our diet is – and this is true. But we’d also like to dive into the key elements we often ignore in the quest for good gut health.
These key elements include:
Eating meals at the same time every day.
The researchers stated that our cycles of eating and fasting influence our gut microbes in a way that has a significant impact on our body’s ability to balance glucose and cholesterol levels, along with maintaining metabolic function. The reason? Peripheral circadian clocks.
Our peripheral circadian clocks refer to the rhythms responsible for a number of functions, and yes, sleep is one of the more well-known ones – but did you know these rhythms also influence other processes? These include hormonal cycles, your body’s temperature and even the way we process food. If our circadian clocks are thrown off balance, the risk for metabolic diseases, neurological conditions and liver disease rises drastically. That’s why it’s important to keep to a regular schedule, whether you eat 3, 5 or even 10 times a day – the research shows it’s the consistency that counts. Type 2 diabetes, mental health conditions and a long list of other diseases are associated with a disrupted circadian clock.
The actual time of day you eat.
Our circadian rhythms were found to fluctuate throughout the day, meaning the timing could influence the microbiome. Another study gives further insight into this, finding that our internal microbiota varied at different times, with factors like the time we eat and the amount of time spent fasting between dinner and breakfast. Eating more frequently shown to increase healthy bacteria like Coprobacillus,and those who ate the bulk of their daily intake earlier in the day had better results with increasing the amount of beneficial bacteria – the most important step in creating a gut microbiome that ensures a strong immune system.
Of course, what you eat is important too. The microbiome thrives on a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, along with a few extra essentials that get you moving in the right direction. Here are a few of the foods that go hand-in-hand with a healthy gut.
- Healthy fats: These are vital for the absorption of vitamins A, C and D – which are all needed to maintain gut health. Go for nuts and nut butters, eggs, coconut milk and avocados.
- Probiotics: These provide the body with beneficial bacteria, playing an important role in building up a healthy gut. These also play a role in reducing blood pressure and inflammation. Some great probiotic-packed foods include kefir, yoghurt, kimchi and Sauer kraut.
- Prebiotics: These stimulate the development of good bacteria and are carbohydrates which can’t be digested. As a result, they act a food source for the healthy bacteria in your gut, ensuring they thrive and continue powering your microbiome. Foods like oats, artichoke and garlic all make excellent editions to a gut-friendly diet.
- Fibre:Getting enough fibre is essential for preventing constipation and other digestive conditions which can wreak havoc on the gut. It also encourages beneficial bacteria to take up residence in your body, and we promise, they pay their rent – in the form of gut health. Beans, broccoli and whole grains are all great options to get your fill of fibre.
- Antioxidants:These reduce inflammation in the gut, thus preventing the weakening of the gut lining or an increase in bad bacteria. Some foods high in antioxidants are strawberries, carrots and green tea – a drink, not a food, we know! But it’s worth adding to the list for its anti-inflammatory properties, clocking in at almost double the number of antioxidants as black tea.
The foods you keep off your plate – or at least to a minimum – also play a role too. Excessive alcohol and sugar intake can throw your gut out of whack. Diets high in sugar, for instance, can lead to negative changes to the gut bacteria, with researchshowing it decreased microbial diversity, thus heightening the risk for bad bacteria to throw the balance off.
High sugar diets were also found to lead to higher levels of Proteobacteria, and higher prevalence of this bacteria may be an indicator of dysbiosis, which is where the gut microbiome has been disrupted and is not working how it should. The result is a greater risk for the development of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
If you’re looking to cut sugar out of your life and get on track to good health – and not just gut health, we’re talking about everything from mental health to skin health. When it comes to nutrition, it’s all interlinked, and there are a number of ways we can improve our health, starting with ditching, or even just consuming in moderation, sugar. Join us HEREif you’re ready to take back control of your life and get all the best tips on what to eat – and when to eat – for a healthy gut microbiome.