Flora, Fiber, and Food Allergies

Six main organs and six "accessory" organs make up the GI tract. Hormones signal these organs to secrete digestive enzymes at each stage of digestion.   

Six main organs and six "accessory" organs make up the GI tract. Hormones signal these organs to secrete digestive enzymes at each stage of digestion. 

 

When I first began my coursework as a Nutritional Science major in school, I thought “this is great, I’m going to learn SO much about food and the body and how to take care of myself….” and I did. However, what they don’t tell you is that about 90% of the content you will study starts from your mouth and ends at your...well, you know.

The digestive system is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated physiological systems. If something isn’t right in one of your GI organs, the energy you consume won’t be absorbed, which means the rest of the cells in your body are starved. Now you may be thinking “that’s a great weight loss ploy” but I’m not talking about fat cells (that’s a whole different story) I’m talking about brain cells, muscle cells, cells that make your organs work. When we don’t eat well, our bodies aren’t running optimally. But when we do, and it’s absorbed properly, the stuff that goes on is amazing.

The reason I took this moment to express my appreciation for the digestive system is because recently there has been a lot of research released about the gut microbiome and its relation to food allergies. The gut microbiome (i.e. intestinal flora) is the bacterial colonies that live in our gut. Sounds kind of gross, right? If you thought I was done nerding out already, just wait, I’m not done.

The strain of bacteria whose growth is promoted by fiber is called Clostridia. (This is an animated photo of bacteria and may not reflect the actual image of Clostridia)

The strain of bacteria whose growth is promoted by fiber is called Clostridia. (This is an animated photo of bacteria and may not reflect the actual image of Clostridia)

Our intestinal flora is so cool, it is mainly unique to the individual. Meaning, my gut bacteria isn’t the same is yours, like a fingerprint. And when it’s all there, flourishing in your intestines, it’s like the secret weapon to a healthy body. It helps regulate hormones, control fat storage and appetite, and basically makes sure that all the nutrients you eat go to all the right places.

Two-thirds of the bacteria strains in the human gut are unique to the individual.

Two-thirds of the bacteria strains in the human gut are unique to the individual.

And just recently, a few Australian researchers found that the way that your gut digests fiber can actually help prevent the development of food allergies. WHAT?! Yup, the breakdown of dietary fiber from our gut bacteria releases substances that help prevent allergic responses to foods.

So is fiber the be-all end-all to food allergies, then? Unfortunately not. However, Nutritionists like me now have yet another reason to promote intake of dietary fiber, and other foods that help keep that good gut bacteria healthy and thriving.

Here are my three favorite foods and drinks for a healthy gut:

  1. Yogurt: preferably Greek 0%. Ever wonder why your yogurt says “contains live and active cultures” and that kind of creeped you out? Those are what helped the product ferment making yogurt a great probiotic.

  2. Kefir: helps the gut much like yogurt in that it is a great probiotic drink, but since it’s a thick drink vs. a thick yogurt it may be more suitable for those who prefer to drink their breakfast.

  3. Kombucha: this fermented tea is like nothing you’ve tasted before. You’d never think that colonies of bacteria and yeast could taste so good.

My three favorite allergy-fighting fiber foods:

  1. Avocados: this healthy fat is surprisingly full of fiber!

  2. Garbanzo beans: the bean with one of the highest fiber content of them all. Top your salads with garbanzo beans or make homemade hummus.

  3. Ezekiel bread: this sprouted whole grain bread doesn’t just aid digestion, it also it chalked full of vitamins and minerals. Spread some fiber-filled avocados on a toasted slice!


 

Sources:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-gut-bacteria-help-make-us-fat-and-thin/

http://www.livescience.com/50046-fiber-reduce-allergies.html

http://www.newsmax.com/Health/Health-News/high-fiber-diet-allergy/2015/03/05/id/628538/

 

Photos: FLICKR