By Staff of Forum Health Las Colinas
Food Sensitivities or an Unhealthy Gut Can Wreak Havoc on Health
This month, we have been focusing on “eating the rainbow.” Eating foods of all colors – red, yellow, green, orange, etc., provides the nutritional sustenance and foundation for a healthy gut microbiome, and each has their role in keeping you as healthy as possible.
Eating the rainbow, or eating fruits and vegetables from each color of the rainbow, helps provide the body with the essential vitamins and nutrients it needs for optimal health and wellness.
It’s recommended that at mealtime, half of your plate is filled with fruits and vegetables. And, if you’re like many Americans, it can be a struggle to eat the recommended servings of fresh fruits and veggies each day.
In addition to making it easy to fill a pretty plate full of delicious food, each color serves a nutritional purpose:
- RED for phytochemicals
- ORANGE and YELLOW for carotenoids
- GREEN for antioxidants
- BLUE and PURPLE for resveratrol
- WHITE for overall health
Red fruits and vegetables are nature’s nutritional powerhouses. The healing properties of red foods include:
- Protect against certain cancers
- Reduce the risk of diabetes
- Lower the risk of macular degeneration, an age-related condition that can impair vision
- Improve skin quality
- Decrease risk of heart disease and stroke
Green fruits and vegetables are antioxidant-rich and pack a powerful nutritional punch. They contain vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as phytochemicals, fiber, calcium, iron, potassium, and folate. Health benefits include:
- Maintain strong bones and teeth
- Promote healthy vision
- Detoxify the body
- Help with digestion
- Reduce the risk of cancer
- Boost the immune system
Orange and yellow foods are packed full of phytonutrients. They are famous for being rich in Vitamin C and carotenoids including beta carotene, and lutein. In addition, citrus fruits contain heart-healthy hesperidin. Beta Carotene is considered a provitamin, meaning that the body can convert it into vitamin A (retinol). These types of foods:
- Promote eye health and protect vision
- Protect skin against sun and pollution
- Improve immune function
- Decrease risks of various cancers
- Reduce the risk of heart disease
Food Sensitivities and Gut Dysbiosis
When sensitivities develop in the human body, or the gut becomes out of balance (gut dysbiosis), not only can you develop digestive issues that can be quite uncomfortable, but you can be setting yourself up for long-term and chronic disease. The importance of a healthy, fully functioning gastrointestinal system cannot be underestimated.
With new information and consistent research being done in this important area of health and wellness, scientific literature has associated food sensitivities, and gut dysbiosis with many diseases and conditions, including:
- Celiac, and other malabsorption disorders
- Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s, Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Psoriatic Arthritis, and more
- Whole-body inflammation, the root cause of many types of disease
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome, also called IBS
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease, also called IBD
- Acid reflux and heartburn
- Blood sugar issues and diabetes
- Insulin resistance
- Excessive weight gain and obesity
- Cardiovascular disease
- Alzheimer’s disease/dementia
- Depression and other brain disorders
- Hormonal imbalances
- Toxic overload
Eating the Rainbow and Gut Health
What is it exactly about eating foods of varying colors that contribute to a healthy gut? Certainly, it is about nutrition, as foods with lots of color are nutrient-rich and offer antioxidant properties among others. But these foods also help to maintain balance within the gut microbiome to keep it functioning optimally. With the gut microbiome responsible for so much of the body’s immune defense, it is imperative to keep it within balance and ensure that your body is able to absorb the nutrients from the foods that you eat.
The microbiome consists of trillions of bacteria, viruses, enzymes, fungi, etc. It might seem like this is a bad thing, but it’s actually good, as long as things stay balanced. For example, just about everyone has taken antibiotics at some point in their lifetime. These are designed to destroy bacteria that make you sick. Unfortunately, antibiotics don’t discriminate between the good and bad flora; instead, they set out to destroy bacteria, period. This is why you may experience unpleasant side effects when taking them, such as diarrhea, stomach upset, or a yeast infection; the microbiome has been zapped, as the good bacteria are destroyed as well.
And while the antibiotics are doing their job in ridding the body of harmful bacteria, they are also ridding the body of beneficial bacteria. So, while you may be cured of infection, your immune system still takes a hit because of the reduction in good bacteria.
How What You Eat Affects your Gut Health
The microbiome’s role in our body’s operation is so important that it acts like an organ impacting mood, cognitive function, aging, digestion, and our immune system.
Eating healthy, clean foods plays a big role in keeping your gut, and you, healthy. To maintain a healthy gut microbiome, the goal is to have plenty of good bacteria. Probiotics are found in fermented foods, kimchi, unsweetened yogurts, and anything that contains live bacteria.
Probiotics in and of themselves aren’t enough though to keep the good bacteria thriving. You need to feed that good bacteria with prebiotics which are mainly found in fibrous foods. Maintaining a healthy gut flora also keeps the gut lining of the small intestine strong and intact, which is aided by eating healthy foods. When the gut wall becomes compromised, it allows toxins and minute particles of food to permeate it and get into the bloodstream. This is one of the biggest reasons why food sensitivities occur which then sends the immune system into overdrive, since the body sees these particles as foreign invaders. If this continues, over time, and by eating a poor diet of processed and sugary foods, the body can’t easily distinguish what is foreign and what isn’t, which is the crux of autoimmune disease.
Additionally, when the gut microbiome isn’t thriving, it can cause malnutrition issues, even though you may be eating enough or too much food.