The bacteria in your stomach and bowels are a big deal that make the news almost daily. This is called your microbiome, and its status can impact your weight and health. A new study now suggests that eating walnuts may help repair that important balance of microorganisms.
What’s So Great About Walnuts?
For starters, walnuts are chockful of good stuff (e.g., protein, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, fiber, polyphenols, essential minerals and vitamins, etc.), so full they are truly one of the world’s power foods. Additionally, there are proven health benefits associated with walnut (and other nuts) consumption including a lower risk of heart disease and cancer and keeping our brain healthy as we age (supporting studies can be found within the feature study linked below). Now, it seems we can add to this that walnuts may eliminate dysbiosis in the gut.
Dysbiosis: It’s All About the Balance
To function at its best, one thing the body needs is a healthy balance of bacteria in our gut microbiome—the community of bacteria (and other microorganisms) in our gut. Dysbiosis in the gut happens when there is an imbalance in that bacteria and the bad overpowers the healthy gut bacteria.
Bad bacteria can prosper when we consume a chronically unhealthy diet or when we contract an infection. A healthy diet can help tip the gut-bacteria balance in the right direction. And for a bacterial infection, antibiotics may be able to wipe out the bad bacteria; however, they also wipe out all the good bacteria, too, causing a whole host of gut, and other, issues. Unfortunately, when the gut slate is wiped clean, it’s the bad bacteria that likes to take hold more forcefully—this is why probiotics, to repopulate healthy gut bacteria, should be used so aggressively before, during, and after antibiotic use.
It’s important to keep our gut in balance for many reasons, such as the following:
- Our emotions may be controlled by our gut bacteria.
- A healthy gut is essential for good blood-sugar control.
- A link has been found between Parkinson’s disease and gut bacteria.
- Obesity is associated with certain species of bacteria in our gut.
- Stem cells may be damaged by bad gut bacteria.
- Hyperinsulin secretion can occur due to the effect of artificial sweeteners on the gut.
One way we may be able to help keep our gut in balance—eat more walnuts!
Study Review: Walnuts Support Balance in the Gut
Researches designed the new study to investigate the effects of walnuts on the gut microbiome. The study consisted of 20 rats randomized into either a walnut group or a “replacement” group. Both groups were fed similar diets with the exception that the fat, protein, and fiber in the walnuts consumed by the walnut group were replaced with corn oil, protein casein, and cellulose fiber for the replacement group to keep caloric content similar. After 10 weeks, samples were collected from the intestines of the rats.
The results? When compared to the rat guts in the replacement group, the rat guts in the walnut group showed significant benefits in gut bacteria, primarily due to a better balance of bacterial species. In addition, there were increases in probiotic species, or “good” bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, which help provide balance in the gut. Researchers concluded that this study suggests altering bacterial species may be the key to a healthy gut, and walnuts were shown to support this shift in the gut microbiome.
The upshot? I love walnuts, so this one is a no brainer for me. In addition, nuts are a great balance of plant-based fats and low carbs, so they are very paleo. So grab some walnuts to repair that out-of-balance gut!