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Why your Microbiome is Begging for Gluten

These days we are all talking about the microbiome or the bacteria that live in our gut.

These buggers are responsible for helping us digest food, play a major role in our immune system and help our bodies synthesize necessary vitamins among many other vital functions.

Without these bacteria- WE WOULD DIE!

Most recent studies estimate that we have 10 trillion bacteria consisting of up to 5000 species in our colon alone!

Recently, the list of diseases linked to a disruption in the normal gut microbiome has grown. Diabetes, obesity, certain cancers and depression are among some of the diseases associated with altered gut bacteria.

Interestingly, fecal transplantation (yuck, I know) in experimental models has shown improvement in some of these diseases. Take for instance obesity. Transplanting poop from mice that have lost weight with bariatric surgery into chubby mice results in weight loss in those mice – without surgery and without diet!  What we don’t know, however, is if this change in gut bacteria is the chicken or the egg or how we can capitalize on this to prevent disease.

What we do know is this. Changing out diet, even in the short term can dramatically alter our gut microbiome. In one study, consuming an all plant-based vs an animal protein diet changed the population of bacteria after only 2 days of dietary change. What impact does this have on our health? Particularly now when atkins turned keto is on the rage?

One recent study looked at the effect of adding whole grains like barley (which contain gluten by the way) and brown rice on gut health and other metabolic factors. This study showed that daily consumption of 60 g of whole grains (that’s about half a cup) for 4 weeks improved markers of immunity, inflammation as well as metabolic markers. Benefits included increasing the diversity of the microbiome, reducing markers of inflammation and improvements in blood sugar and insulin response to food.

Take home message? Eating as little as ½ a cup of good carbs a day, ie whole grain carbohydrates (that contain gluten), can help protect a healthy population of bacteria in our gut that is associated with better immunity, reduced inflammation and a better metabolic profile.


Martínez, Inés et al. “Gut Microbiome Composition Is Linked to Whole Grain-Induced Immunological Improvements.” The ISME Journal 7.2 (2013): 269–280. PMC. Web. 29 Mar. 2018.

Dr. Adrienne Youdim

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