New Research Points to Dietary Changes for a Healthy Gut

friesScience tells us we are all more microbe than human—and that among the trillions of bacteria swimming around in our bodies (found primarily in the digestive tract), there are beneficial microbes that play an important role in everything from keeping us regular to supporting our immune health. But just how well do we treat our friendly bacteria? Two new studies point out a couple ways we might be falling short.

Artificial Sweeteners are Anything but Sweet
Scientists in Israel recently conducted a study using mice and determined that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin may be changing our gut bacteria and contributing to obesity and related health conditions. When a group of young mice was fed a daily dose of water mixed with artificial sweeteners, the faux sugar solution stimulated the growth of certain microbes linked to fat storage. In addition, it delayed healthy glucose absorption, causing abnormally high blood sugar levels.

Unhealthy Fats May Be Changing Your Gut Microbes
As much as we love greasy burgers and fries, all those unhealthy fats may be altering our gut bacteria in a way that negatively impacts mood and behavior. Researchers from Louisiana State University recently completed a study that spotlights the intensity of the gut-brain connection and illustrates how changes in our microbiome can have far-reaching effects. Using mice, they were able to determine that gut bacteria populations associated with a high-fat diet were linked to heightened feelings of anxiety and depression, as well as problems with cognitive function and memory.

How to Get a Head Start on Healthy Gut
The good news is that our gut bacteria respond quickly to positive changes in diet. Start by loading up on non-starchy vegetables, low-sugar fruits, fermented foods, healthy fats, and protein to promote a balanced gut. Avoid artificial sweeteners and unhealthy fats, as well as foods high in starches and sugar.

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Study: Constipation ER Visits on the Rise

er_signEver have that feeling like you just can’t go? You’re not alone. Occasional constipation is among the most common digestive complaints in the United States, affecting millions of Americans every year—and these days it seems to be landing more people in the emergency room, according to a new study.

Researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston collected data from nearly 1,000 hospitals nationwide. From the information gathered, they were able to determine that since 2006 there has been a significant rise in ER visits for constipation—an increase of more than 40 percent. (That’s nearly double the increase in overall emergency room visits, say experts.)

Senior author Dr. Anthony Lembo and his team point out that infants and elderly adults were among those most likely to be brought to the ER for occasional constipation—most commonly due to symptoms of abdominal pain. And, while not all visits resulted in a hospital admission, the increasing number of ER trips definitely comes with a higher price tag: the cost of a single ER trip rose from $1,500 to about $2,300.

If anything, this new study spotlights the need to increase awareness about common factors that contribute to occasional constipation as well as the important dietary and lifestyle habits that support optimal bowel health and regular elimination. These include drinking plenty of water to and eating at least 35 grams of fiber daily from non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruits.

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