Doctor's casebook: Maintaining a healthy gut

Research is accumulating rapidly about the importance of the microbiome, the name that is given to the trillions of micro-organisms inside the gut.

By Dr Keith Souter
Saturday, 13th February 2021, 11:45 am
Fruit and vegetables are good for the gut
Fruit and vegetables are good for the gut

It plays an essential role in your general health and well-being.

It is thought that it can also affect and contribute to your immune system.

A huge research study has been going on since October last year to try to see whether the pandemic has changed the way that people eat and live.

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Experts from both the UK and the USA have collaborated to launch a diet and lifestyle survey, which has included over one and a half million people right around the world.

They have found that 40 per cent of people reported that the quality of their diet had changed during the pandemic, some for the better, some for the worse.

For example, 15 per cent of people said that their alcohol consumption had increased, whereas only eight per cent had decreased their alcohol intake.

On the other hand, 15 per cent of people had increased their fruit and vegetable intake, as opposed to 10 per cent, who said their intake had gone down.

In order to try to assess the diet quality of the study participants the researchers calculated Diet Quality Scores. This is a scientifically validated tool used to assess the health quality of an individual’s diet. It indicates how healthy a diet was before and during the pandemic.

They also developed another score, the Gut Friendly Diet score (GFD). This was designed to show how one’s diet affects the gut microbiome.

The GFD score indicates the ratio of gut ‘friendly’ to gut ‘unfriendly’ foods in the diet before and during the pandemic.

A good score suggests that the person has a balanced diet containing more gut ‘friendly’ foods, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and fermented foods. These are associated with a higher number and greater diversity of ‘healthy’ gut microbes.

A lower score, on the other hand, suggests that the person’s diet lacks enough ‘gut friendly’ foods, which may not support the growth of ‘healthy’ gut microbes. This could indicate that the diet contained an abundance of fast foods, sweet treats, processed foods and red meat.

It is worth thinking of keeping the gut friendly food intake up. Think five pieces of fruit and vegetables to begin with.