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


Gut health is emerging as a new lifestyle approach that will drive change in the food and beverage industry. According to Schieber research, US 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 & 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 3 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.

Boost Health Now And In The Future 

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 MD 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.

Disease Prevention

Gut health plays an increasingly central and pivotal role in our overall health. The function of our gut is not limited to digestion and absorption of food as previously thought. There is more evidence now that the microbiota in our gut communicate with other organ systems such as our brains and our immune system. The microbiota are not just along for the ride, they actively influence distant body systems. Altered gut function and microbiota composition has been linked  to obesity, allergic diseases, autoimmune diseases as well as mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. The mechanisms to ensure gut health can be complex and comprise a multitude of lifestyle interventions, dietary changes, stress reduction, treatment of gut infections and even changes in sleep habits. It is important to address gut health with your health care provider ideally before symptoms have developed. Specific discussions around the use and need of antibiotics are important. Ask your provider about the role of pre-/probiotics and what steps you can take to move your microbiome back into balance and heal intestinal permeability- Elke Cooke MD. 

Gut health directly impacts one’s daily food choices, activity level, sleep quality, and stress. Gut health starts at birth and is continually influenced by one’s lifestyle and environment. Practical conversations surrounding gut health are very important for disease prevention, treatment, and reversal of long standing medical conditions. Individuals can discuss their symptoms, such as bowel movements, bloating, headaches, and fatigue. They can also discuss their chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, mood disorders, hormone imbalance, heart disease, weight issues, and autoimmune disease –Melissa Mondala MD MHA

Gut health is the gateway to overall health and the key to preventing and reversing chronic conditions. Through feeding our gut bacteria correctly, we directly impact the biochemistry of our bodies. People should have the discussion with their doctor about what is right to eat. On the flip side, every doctor should have at least a course on diet and gut health, creating learning opportunities for patients. Healthy gut requires: 1) clean, whole food with no pesticides and with minimal processing; 2) diverse food intake as diversity is the engine that keeps the gut healthy and evolving; 3) fiber, plant fat and fermented foods should be a much bigger proportion of diets — think the way people ate 150 years ago; 4) give your gut a break by leaving at least 12 hours between last and first meal.- Victor Penev -Founder and CEO Edamam LLC.

There are more living microbes in your gut than all your human cells combine so it is very important what goes on there. That is where most of the digestion and absorption of nutrition into the body really takes place which keeps the body nourished and healthy. There is not a substitute for a healthy gut and there are no pills which can take its place if it is constantly abused. It is really the site where food begins to turn into medicine and deserves our full attention to keep it healthy and functioning properly.- Bob Quinn, President Kamut International



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