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Personalized Nutrition & Gut Health: 5 Important Facts Worth Knowing

By Julia B. Olayanju, Forbes | October 25, 2018

According to research conducted by Statistica in 2016, 72% of consumers in US believe their eating habit is important to good health and long life. Health and wellness is also a key factor driving change in consumer demands in the food industry, as described in this Forbes article.

As more people seek to understand the importance of food to overall well-being, curiosity on gut health appears to be on the rise. As reflected by web queries for”gut health”, “bloating”,  “best food for gut health” and “best food for bloating”, the subject of gut health and nutrition is gaining attention.

Work done by leading scientists in the field of microbiome highlights the importance of gut health to overall health. I reached out to experts and industry leaders to get their perspective on this trending topic

1. Know The Gut Health Basics 

"Gut health is essential for human health.  We have trillions of bacteria living in our intestines, and collectively they're known as the gut microbiome.  Gut bacteria can break down food your body can't digest, produce important nutrients, influence the development and function of the immune system, protect you against harmful germs, and so much more.  Gut bacteria are affected by a variety of environmental exposures, but the food we eat is emerging as one of the most influential factors.  In eating to cultivate a healthy, diverse gut microbiome, focus on getting lots of fiber, which is found in a variety of plant foods.  Gut bacteria ferment the fiber to produce beneficial compounds.  People eating high fiber diets have an increase in "good" bacteria and an overall increase in microbiome diversity.  Another nutrition tip- eat lots of "fresh" foods.  The less a food is processed, the more of it gets safely through the gastrointestinal tract and right to the bugs inside you.  Foods that are less processed have more of the important fiber that you want to feed your gut bugs.  For example, raw, steamed or sauteed vegetables are better than fried or overcooked ones.  Al dente pasta feeds the bugs better than soft pasta, and steel-cut oats are better than rolled."
- Shilpa Ravella, M.D. Assistant Professor of Medicine, Columbia University Medical Center, NY

2. Microbiome Differ From Person To Person

"It is important to know that people have different microbiome, hence what works for one might not work for the other. Dietary fiber that is fermentable by one person may not be fermentable by the other and this makes personalized & data-driven nutrition very important". Liping Zhao Ph.D., Eveleigh-Fenton Chair Professor of Applied Microbiology at Rutgers University.

3. Gut-Health  Should Be Monitored Early

“Children are at greater risk of inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, such as asthma, allergies, colic, and eczema, than ever. As described in a clinical study published in American Journal For Microbiology we’ve discovered that there is a short window of time to transform the gut microbiome to better fight the pathogens that are linked to these maladies.

If an infant is fed B. infantis, the critical beneficial bacteria, with breast milk during the first months of life while the microbiome is still developing, it will create a protective environment and crowd out E. coli, Clostridia, Streptococcus and other harmful bacteria that can potentially wreak havoc on the developing immune system.

There are many reasons babies start life with a deficient microbiome, however parents can rest assured that this can be restored in the first stages of life. Brand-new and expecting parents, and society as a whole need to treat deficient microbiome with a great sense of urgency ” - Tim Brown, CEO, Evolve Biosystems, Inc.

4. Nutrition is Crucial To Gut Health

Typically, when we think about eating food, we focus on the nutritional value to our cells. We also need to feed the bacteria in our gut since they make molecules that we can’t make or only make in small amounts. Most of which functions to decrease inflammation in all areas of our body and also quiet our nervous system.

There are many studies that support a diet that includes chicken broth with plenty of fruits and vegetables is beneficial across ethnic groups – reducing risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and inflammatory diseases involving our joints (arthritis) and gut (IBS). I find it interesting that across the globe when someone feels ill, we turn to chicken soup/broth (the old fashion kind – slow cooking the whole bird, bones included) to restore their health. Even my daughter after surgery to remove her appendix, chose chicken broth over all the other choices. Each individual will have certain foods that actually improve their gut health by feeding the good bacteria, while the same foods eaten by another individual (even in a sibling) might actually make the person feel sick if he/she is not able to breakdown the foods to provide nutrition to the body and the gut bacteria. Personalized nutrition should be a foundation of our healthcare system since the foods we eat can inhibit inflammation, and thus prevent progression of major diseases involving inflammation, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurological diseases, arthritis and irritable bowel disease. As Hippocrates, the father of western medicine proclaimed, let food be thy medicine. - Paul Durham Ph.D., Distinguished Professor and Director at Center For Biomedical & Life Sciences,  Missouri State University.

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