We rely on our gut bacteria to produce much of our essential nutrients and vitamins while they rely on us eating plants and fruits to provide them with energy and to produce healthy chemicals which keep our immune system working normally. Our gut bacteria help to produce micronutrients (like vitamins and antioxidants) from the food we eat, as well as break down macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) to ease digestion. These bacteria also maintain the colon wall, helping with its barrier function and uptake of nutrients in our gastrointestinal tracts.
It is now understood that diet plays a significant role in shaping the microbiome, with experiments showing that dietary alterations can induce large, temporary microbial shifts within 24 hours. A research study published in 2014 in the Multidisciplinary of Microbial Ecology involving laboratory mice demonstrated that when fed an intensive high fat diet their microbes changed dramatically and for the worse.
The media is now increasingly highlighting the effect of sugar on the body and the increase in diabetes and obesity related illnesses in the adult population particularly in the UK and US.
Eating sugar gives increases the feel-good chemical called dopamine, which helps to explain why you’re more likely to crave a chocolate bar at 3pm than an apple or a carrot. Because whole foods like fruits and vegetables don’t cause the brain to release as much dopamine, your brain starts to need more and more sugar to get that same feeling of pleasure.
Chronic UTI sufferers regularly report flares over the Christmas and Easter holiday periods. When we eat a high-sugar diet, the undesirable bacteria thrive and start to grow out of control, while our beneficial bacteria dwindle in number.
Where do I start with diet?
Given your gut is a key immune system regulator and “second brain”, the modern Western diet lacks a great deal of variety and can easily disrupt the gut microbiome. It is high in processed and fried foods, sugar, carbohydrates and trans and hydrogenated fats. With busy, time poor lives, it is too easy to reach for the bar of chocolate, bag of crisps or sugary bun to get that quick fix. Supermarket prepared ready meals or takeaways are often the quickest option at the end of the working day. It also helps that fast food and sugary treats are inexpensive in comparison to healthier options.
A healthy diet encourages eating plenty of fruit, vegetables, healthy fats, lean protein, and other plant-based foods. The “Mediterranean Diet” in a study in 2018 published in Frontiers in Nutrition noted “while the monkeys fed the Western diet experienced a 0.5 percent increase in the abundance of “good” bacteria in their gut, the beneficial gut bacteria of monkeys fed the Mediterranean diet increased by up to 7 percent”. It is also one of the most extensively studied diets to date, with reliable research supporting its use for improving a person’s quality of life and lowering disease risk.
Any change in diet must be tailored to your individual circumstances. A good starting point is to firstly look at your lifestyle and your budget and what dietary changes are possible based on these factors. Then consider any dietary changes against how they will affect your bladder.
Those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), or who are Coeliac will already be aware of their own dietary requirements and should be under managed care through their consultant.
Think carefully about using Dr Google as an alternative, cheap option despite all the “advice” on there especially if you have other health issues. Look for diets that have clear research evidence to support them and check how they have been developed. There are a lot of “gurus” out there but their programme claims may do more harm than good.