The intestinal microbiota is the set of all the bacteria that populate our gut with effects on digestion, mood, the functioning of the brain, lungs and immune system. Hence, it is very important to preserve the health of our microbiota. For this purpose, a help is offered by fermented foods that, in a month and a half of intake, have been shown to increase the diversity of the microbiota and reduce inflammation, thus also supporting our natural defenses. These results are the fruit of a recent study published in the journal Cell thanks to the work of American scientists from the Stanford School of Medicine (Wastyk et al, Cell, 2021).
Intestinal microbiota and health
The health of the entire organism depends on the health of our gut microbiota. And the good news is that we can take action to support and protect the good bacteria that populate our gut. To do this, no particular or difficult actions to be implemented in everyday life are required. In fact, it is sufficient to introduce fermented foods into one's diet to observe important benefits, as evidenced by the study we are talking about today.
Fermented foods reduce inflammation, the study
Scientists recruited 36 young adults and divided them into two groups. The first group was asked to include fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, fermented cheeses, such as roquefort, blue cheese or fermented cottage cheese, sauerkraut, gherkins and kombucha, which is a deliciously sparkling drink, in their diet for 10 weeks. The second group followed, for the same period of time, a high-fiber diet that included legumes, nuts, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. The participants in the study were subjected, before, during and at the end of the experiment, to tests to assess the state of the intestinal microbiota and the main indicators of inflammation. What emerged was that a diet containing fermented foods was able to increase the variety of the intestinal microbiota and reduce as many as 19 indicators of inflammation. Among these indicators, interleukin 6 was also decreased, which is associated with rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes and chronic stress conditions. When the inflammation decreases, our immune system benefits from it, which is strengthened.
What emerged is that a short-term intervention on the diet, with the introduction of fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, some cheeses, sauerkraut, gherkins and kombucha, has been able to quickly modify the intestinal microbiota making it more friend of the body and capable of reducing inflammation, with a decrease in the risk of various diseases. The high-fiber diet, while a healthy choice, did not produce the same results but, as the researchers speculate, it is likely that it simply needs more time to show its effects. In any case, this will be the subject of subsequent studies aimed at understanding how our dietary choices can affect our microbiota and our general health.