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mediterranean

Mediterranean Diet and Gut Wellness

It's not news to many that the Mediterranean Diet might just be the healthiest to follow. After all, research has clearly indicated that the Mediterranean Diet supports longevity and heart wellness [1]. Now, a recent study finds that the Mediterranean Diet and gut wellness go hand-in-hand, too. These findings not only prove that the Mediterranean Diet is one of the best to follow but that a healthy microbiome can support overall wellness. Let's take a closer look at the Mediterranean Diet and gut wellness connection.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

Visions of the Mediterranean may conjure up ideas of relaxing by the sea. That's pretty much how your gut feels when it thinks of the Mediterranean, too. Eating Mediterranean foods is a wonderful break from the refined sugars and simple carbs that are common in a typical Western Diet.

The Mediterranean has hot, dry summers that get nourished by cool, wet winters. Therefore, fresh produce is abundant throughout most of the year. Plus, easy access to the water makes fish far more accessible than beef.

Types of Mediterranean Foods

Common foods in a Mediterranean Diet include:

  • Olives/Olive Oil
  • Figs
  • Dates
  • Grapes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Avocados
  • Citrus Fruits
  • Wild-Caught Fish (Salmon, Tuna, Shrimp)
  • Fresh Vegetables
  • Couscous
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Eggplant
  • Whole Grains

As you can see, the Mediterranean Diet runs a lot of parallels with a whole foods diet. So, try following an Elimination Diet if you are looking to eat Mediterranean for gut wellness.

Why Mediterranean Diet is Good for Health

The Mediterranean Diet evolved to be one of the healthiest in the world, much in thanks to its location. Plants with deep roots, such as olive trees, survive much better than shallow-rooted plants like grass. Without grass to graze, there isn't any feed for cows. So, many live a predominantly plant-based lifestyle.

Omega-6 vs. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Approximately two-thirds of Americans struggle with obesity. That's because the Standard American Diet (SAD) is stuffed with a litany of poor sources of saturated fats.

Saturated fats tend to accumulate around the gut, which can make it challenging to maintain a healthy weight. Furthermore, they come teemed with a litany of omega-6 fatty acids. Our ancestors evolved with an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1:1. Presently, we're upwards of 15:1 [3].

Science shows that significant milestones in wellness improve as the 1:1 ratio gets closer together, including:

  • Upper respiratory wellness
  • Longevity 
  • Immune system support

By cutting down on excessive red meat and dairy, you could improve many aspects of your wellness. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't consume red meat at all. The key is to eat a wide variety of foods to give your body a spectrum of nutrients. 

That's what makes the Mediterranean Diet so special. It incorporates a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods that are conducive to cardio wellness, a healthy immune system, and more. 

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Mediterranean Diet and Gut Diversity 

Researchers followed 612 non-frail and pre-frail elderly people for one year.

These individuals came from the following regions:

  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • Italy
  • Poland
  • Netherlands

Some of these participants were fed a Mediterranean Diet. At the end of the study, the researchers performed a stool test.

gut health test

They analyzed the microbial DNA of the subjects and found that those who followed the Mediterranean protocol had a far more diverse gut biome. So, what exactly do these findings mean? Let's dive a little deeper into the benefits of Mediterranean foods for gut wellness.

How Mediterranean Diet Improves Gut Wellness

There are a lot of factors at play that causes the Mediterranean Diet to support gut bacteria diversity. Here's a closer look at the perks of clean eating and how it can help maintain balance in the gut biome.

Supports A Healthy Immune System

Research shows that too many omega-6 fatty acids can complicate a person's wellness. [4]. One of the most common omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids responsible for occasional digestive issues is arachidonic acid (ARA).

ARA is a catalyst for many biomarkers that may compromise the immune system, such as C-reactive protein [5]. C-reactive protein levels are traditionally lower in those who follow a Mediterranean Diet, as noted in the above analysis. 

When you don't have excess omega-6 fatty acids bogging down the system, you will experience a strong immune system.

Supports Skincare 

On top of omegas, there are plenty of antioxidants found in Mediterranean foods. That's because a majority of Mediterranean plates comprise of fruits and vegetables. Plant-based foods provide us with a litany of micronutrients that are essential for every aspect of human functioning, including producing healthy skin cells

Essential vitamins and minerals give our cells life, regulate digestive organs, and clear out arteries of debris. These nutrients help flush out microbes or other foreign beings that might impede healthy skin regeneration.

Denying your body these nutrients causes hardship to the system, which can reflect outwardly on a person's skin wellness. By eating a whole foods diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, those who follow a Mediterranean Diet may experience a natural glow. 

Decreases Secondary Bile Acids

We rely on primary bile salts to help digest food and absorb nutrients. However, some of these bile salts will pass by the ileum in the small intestine. Here they meet up in the colon and become susceptible to anaerobic bacteria. That's when they become secondary bile acids.

Secondary bile acids can block nutritional and hormonal signals that may slow down the system. This issue is common with the Vitamin D receptor [6]. Hijacking the Vitamin D receptor can be a big problem. This essential vitamin that we already lack in modulates our gut muscles. As a result, low Vitamin D levels may cause occasional gastrointestinal distress. 

Feeds Probiotics with Prebiotics 

Between fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, there is plenty of dietary fiber in the Mediterranean Diet. These fibers are not digestible to humans. However, our gut bacteria love them. To them, this fiber is known as prebiotics.

Gut bacteria flourish on carbohydrates found in dietary fiber. As a result, they produce metabolites known as short-chain fatty acids. Like the study noted, those who followed a Mediterranean Diet noticed an, "increase in short/branch chained fatty acid production."

Short-chain fatty acids, like butyrate, are essential for supporting gut lining integrity. These beneficial compounds act as energy for our cells.

They are especially beneficial to colon cells. So, consuming dietary fiber helps maintain bacteria so that you can maintain daily comfort.

Since their small in structure, our body burns through short-chain fatty acids very efficiently. Therefore, short-chain fatty acids don't collect in our gut lining and cause potential issues with healthy weight management.

How to Follow a Mediterranean Diet

Following a Mediterranean Diet is easy and delicious. Many of the foods are readily available in your grocery store.

Attempt cutting down on excessive red meat consumption. Try chickpea tacos instead of beef, or have grilled wild-caught salmon instead of baby back ribs.

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We can help you keep your gut lining healthy by recommending the best probiotic supplement for your unique microbiome. Even better, we can offer food suggestions to eat and avoid to support gut diversity. Feel your best with a healthy diet and by getting your gut tested with Ombre!

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Resources

  • 1 Martinez-Gonzalez, M. A., & Martin-Calvo, N. (2016). Mediterranean diet and life expectancy; beyond olive oil, fruits, and vegetables. Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care, 19(6), 401–407. https://doi.org/10.1097/MCO.0000000000000316
  • 2 Ghosh, Tarini Shankar, et al. “Mediterranean Diet Intervention Alters the Gut Microbiome in Older People Reducing Frailty and Improving Health Status: the NU-AGE 1-Year Dietary Intervention across Five European Countries.” Gut, BMJ Publishing Group, 30 Jan. 2020, gut.bmj.com/content/early/2020/01/31/gutjnl-2019-319654.
  • 3 Simopoulos, A P. “The Importance of the Ratio of Omega-6/Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids.” Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy = Biomedecine & Pharmacotherapie, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2002, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12442909.
  • 4 Innes, Jacqueline K, and Philip C Calder. “Omega-6 Fatty Acids and Inflammation.” Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes, and Essential Fatty Acids, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29610056.
  • 5 Muka, Taulant, et al. “Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Serum C-Reactive Protein: The Rotterdam Study.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 21 Apr. 2015, academic.oup.com/aje/article/181/11/846/87496.
  • 6 Ajouz, H., Mukherji, D., & Shamseddine, A. (2014). Secondary bile acids: an underrecognized cause of colon cancer. World journal of surgical oncology, 12, 164. https://doi.org/10.1186/1477-7819-12-164