Monday, November 18, 2013

How to Avoid Bloating and Other Holiday Eating Gut Dilemmas

Santa’s belly may be round because he’s bloated. It’s just a hypothesis but after I read this new study on probiotics and the affects a simple diet (one with lots of sugar), I started to wonder.

FACT: Positively influencing the microflora in our gut (doing things so we have more good probiotics and less bad microbes such as salmonella and E. coli) makes us healthier.

New research published last week in Applied and Environmental Microbiology* reported how the microflora in the gut is affected by both diet and the status of our hormone receptor sites.

DIET: In the study, mice were given a diet with phytoestrogens or without. A phytoestrogen is a plant compound that acts like estrogen in the gut, offering positive benefits to the body. When phytoestrogens were present, the mice had a healthier microflora. When the mice ate a diet of mostly simple sugar (similar to the shortbread and hot chocolate diet we all consume over the holidays) they had more proteobiotics (bad microbes).

HORMONES: The study compared normal mice to a group bred to not have receptor sites for a specific hormone in the gut.  As we age, the number (status) of receptors in our gut changes - thus, we have different microflora with age and we should take this into account when we consider probiotic supplements and which foods we eat. In other words, we could enjoy better gut health if we eat more healthy foods such as those that contain phytoestrogens. Also, this opens the door for manufacturers of probiotics to do a better job of creating age-specific probiotic supplements that could take this hormone-receptor status into account. But, hold your horses, folks! Give them a few years yet as this is pretty new research.

My Confession: I love shortbread. Mmm! And, I have been known to say, “Why not eat some junk – you’re on vacation/holidays.” But, in the study they found negative changes in the mice’s gut flora with just 2 weeks on a simple diet. Yicks! No wonder a weekend of holiday parties can make me feel so bloated. Maybe I need to keep my holiday bad-diet to shorter stints of time, and counteract with more probiotics and foods with fibre and phytoestrogens in them. And, phew - just imagine what Santa feels like after his 6 weeks of pre-Christmas holiday engagements where he’s expected to eat cookies – no wonder he’s got such a big belly. Someone get the man some probiotics!

*Link to the study - 

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