Is the Mediterranean Diet Good For Your Gut?

The Mediterranean diet dates all the way back to the 1960s. It is believed that the Mediterranean diet can help lose weight and also help prevent strokes, heart attack, type 2 diabetes, and even premature death. There are many ways in which people follow the Mediterranean diet, and different people have different foods while following this diet. New research now reveals that a Mediterranean diet can also help your gut microbiome or the bacteria present in your gut. Read on to find out whether the Mediterranean diet is good for your gut or not.

Overview of the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is focused on the traditional foods that people used to have in countries such as Greece and Italy dating all the way back to the 1960s. A Mediterranean diet is known to cause weight loss, help prevent heart attacks, type 2 diabetes, strokes, and even cancer and premature death. There is no one right way in which you can follow this diet.

Here are some things you can eat while following the Mediterranean diet:

What You Can Eat In Moderation in Mediterranean Diet:

What You Can Eat Rarely in Mediterranean Diet:

  • Red meat

What You Need To Avoid in Mediterranean Diet:

  • Added sugars
  • Processed meats
  • Refined grains
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Refined oils
  • Other highly processed foods

New Research Shows Mediterranean Diet Can Help Your Gut

Millions and millions of bacteria reside in your digestive system. Together, these bacteria make up a community of good bacteria that is referred to as the gut microbiota. A new study has now found that consumption of a plant-based diet such as the Mediterranean diet has a positive impact on the gut microbiome.(1)

There are many bacteria present in the microbiota that play key roles in our health, helping to strengthen the intestinal integrity, helping in metabolizing food, and providing protection against diseases.

This new research(1) suggests that eating a Mediterranean diet that is mostly made up of plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, fish, and nuts, helps the friendly gut bacteria thrive.

The study was carried out by researchers from the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands, and it analyzed the eating habits and gut bacteria of more 1,400 people. The study found that eating a Mediterranean diet was associated with having healthier gut bacteria or microbiota. It was also linked with having lower levels of inflammatory markers in the stool.

The results of the study also point to the fact that a plant-rich diet may thereby help protect against many intestinal diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
The study also establishes that there is a deeper relation between what you eat and intestinal disease. The results also indicate that the Mediterranean diet can, thereby, be thought of as a serious line of treatment or disease management for conditions of the gut as it works on modulating the gut microbiome.

Inflammation and the Mediterranean Diet

In the study discussed above, four groups of participants had taken part. This included people who had Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis (UC), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and also people in good overall health who did not have any gastrointestinal condition.

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are both forms of inflammatory bowel disease. These disorders of the digestive system are characterized by chronic inflammation in the intestines. Irritable bowel syndrome is also another gastrointestinal condition in which chronic inflammation may play a significant role.

In order to identify the potential links between intestinal inflammation, diet, and gut microbiota, the researching team gave a food frequency questionnaire to the participants. They also collected stool samples from each participant.

The study found that there are multiple associations between the eating habits of these participants, the gut microbiota, and the markers of intestinal inflammation.

A Mediterranean diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes, and fish has been associated with a greater abundance of gut-friendly bacteria that help in the synthesis of essential nutrients in the body. They also produce fuel for the cells in the large intestine, while also reducing inflammation. This plant-based eating plan has also been associated with lower levels of inflammatory markers detected in the stool of the participants.

Compared to this, a diet that is rich in refined sugar, meat, or processed and fast foods has been linked to lowering the levels of gut-friendly bacteria and increased levels of inflammatory markers.

A Mediterranean diet is also known to lower the risk of heart disease(2), cancer(3), and increased longevity(4) (5). It is also linked with many beneficial digestive effects.

This new study has once again reinforced the idea that having a healthy intestine with the right balance of bacteria is key to maintaining good health and tackling many chronic diseases.

Conclusion

While the research on the Mediterranean diet and gut microbiota continues by several eminent sources, in the meantime, it is a good idea to encourage patients with inflammatory bowel disease to continue working with their doctors to develop diet plans that work best for their condition.

Many people with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease may find that they benefit from having a low-fiber diet such as the Mediterranean diet. This is because many patients of Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis end up developing certain strictures or narrowed segments in their intestines, which makes it challenging for them to pass bulky stool. In such cases, a Mediterranean diet may prove to be helpful.

However, before making any sudden changes to your diet plan, it is necessary to consult your doctor or dietitian to ensure that the dietary changes are going to be positive for your health and not worsen your existing medical condition.

References:

  1. UEG. (2020). UEG Week: Plant-based foods and Mediterranean diet associated with healthy gut microbiome, research reveals. [online] Available at: https://www.ueg.eu/press/releases/ueg-press-release/article/ueg-week-plant-based-foods-and-mediterranean-diet-associated-with-healthy-gut-microbiome-research/ [Accessed 10 Jan. 2020].
  2. Renaud, S., de Lorgeril, M., Delaye, J., Guidollet, J., Jacquard, F., Mamelle, N., Martin, J.L., Monjaud, I., Salen, P. and Toubol, P., 1995. Cretan Mediterranean diet for prevention of coronary heart disease. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 61(6), pp.1360S-1367S.
  3. La Vecchia, C., 2004. Mediterranean diet and cancer. Public health nutrition, 7(7), pp.965-968.
  4. Trichopoulou, A. and Vasilopoulou, E., 2000. Mediterranean diet and longevity. British Journal of Nutrition, 84(S2), pp.S205-S209.
  5. Trichopoulou, A. and Critselis, E., 2004. Mediterranean diet and longevity. European Journal of Cancer Prevention, 13(5), pp.453-456.

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