Over two thousand years ago, Hippocrates said “All disease begins in the gut.” While this statement isn’t completely true, there is much wisdom to it. Bacteria and other organisms in our bodies do a lot more than help us digest food. Between seventy and ninety percent or our immune system resides in our gut. With more knowledge about our immune system and the role chronic inflammation plays in illness, new research is emerging linking healthy gut microbial to healthy weight reduction1 and maintenance as well as preventing chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and neurodegenerative problems. To put it simply, if our gut microflora isn’t healthy, then we are at greater risk for all sorts of illnesses. Scientists think that the sicknesses extend beyond physical ailments, and that healthy gut flora can also improve an array of mental health symptoms. The research adds further evidence to the notion that an assortment of human health issues may depend upon the diversity and complexity of bacteria that lives within the gut, our microbiome.
Containing both good and bad bacteria, the complex gut microbial is the population of bacteria and other microbes that reside in our gut. About 100 trillion bacteria and other microbes live in our intestines, especially the large intestine. The right balance of bacteria in our guts can keep us healthy and protect us from disease. Researchers are looking for the causes of chronic illnesses and the connection between health and nutrition. Increasingly, scientists suspect that the answer is in our guts and what we feed, or don’t feed it.
Photo credit: The Kitchn
A diet high in refined, heavily processed foods will disrupt our gut; antibiotic use and some environmental factors also negatively good bacterial balance. Conversely, a plant-based diet rich in fiber and some fermented foods nourish beneficial bacteria and rebalance our microbiome. To promote a healthy gut, researchers are recommending diets high in fiber that will fortify the healthy probiotic bacteria in our guts. Specifically, some of the best probiotics are onions, leeks, chicory roots, celery, apples and beans. Fiber is critical for numerous health reasons, and in its absence, the microbiotica will instead feed on the thin layer of mucus the thin layer of mucus that protects our intestinal lining, potentially leading to “leaky gut” or other health problems. Microbes in our guts also appear to benefit from polyphenols in seeds, nuts and extra virgin olive oil.
More research is needed to determine specific dietary recommendations, but the knowledge that onion is particularly helpful to a healthy gut underscores that we must move beyond using onions primarily as condiments to eating them regularly as a key health promoting vegetable.
For more information on onions, including recipes and cooking tips please visit https://www.onions-usa.org.