Plant-Based Diets for a Happier Gut

Key points

A healthy microbiota plays and important role in preventing and treating conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and inflammation associated with autoimmune conditions. 

Gut health is a rapidly growing area of nutrition research.

Evidence from observational and intervention studies suggest that an exclusively plant-based diet may deliver numerous health benefits, by affecting the diverse ecosystem of beneficial bacteria in your gut. 

In fact, the vegan gut profile has a number of unique characteristics. There is a reduction in the population of pathobionts (these are organisms that can cause harm under certain circumstances) and an increase in the number of protective species of bacteria.

The greater abundance of “good” bacteria in contrast to the “bad” bacteria leads to reduced levels of inflammation, which is suggested to be the key feature linking the vegan gut microbiota with protective health effects.

Why do vegans have better gut profiles?

In short, it all comes down to fibre.

Fibre increases stool bulk, it reduces transit time through the gut, increases short chain fatty acid concentration, modifies microbiota community profiles, and lowers stool pH (which has been found to reduce the colorectal cancer risk).

How to improve the health of your gut

When it comes to gut health, the equation is pretty simple: High fibre diets, containing prebiotics and probiotics, promote a healthy gut microbiome; whilst diets high in fast food, sugar, processed foods, and excessive alcohol decrease gut health.

The best way to build a healthy gut microbiome is to feed it well - when planning meals and snacks, make sure you think not only about feeding yourself, but the trillions of microbes that inhabit your gastrointestinal tract. 

Foods that are especially helpful in creating a healthy gut microbiome are those that also provided prebiotics and probiotics.

Prebiotics are the non-digestible substances found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains that feed healthy gut bacteria. Artichoke, asparagus, bananas, barley, beans, berries, chicory root, flax, garlic, leafy greens, oatmeal, onion, rye, wheat are just a few great sources.

Probiotics are bacteria that feed off of fiber/prebiotics and aid in digestion. Dietary sources of probiotics include fermented vegetables, kimchi, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, sourdough, tempeh, and plant-based yogurt made with live cultures.

The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider, such as an Accredited Practicing Dietitian, before making significant changes to your diet, especially if you have underlying medical conditions or specific dietary requirements. Nutritional needs can vary greatly from person to person, and individual health circumstances may require personalised dietary recommendations.