By Dr. Lisa Metzgar, PhD:
Fast food seems to be a mainstay of our western diet. We are so busy that we grab cheap food on the go. Marketing makes the food enticing for adults and children by referring to them as “happy meals”. As a parent, I have even found myself “rewarding” my child with a hamburger and fries for a job well done or as a “treat”. Are we teaching our children that junk food is a reward? Unfortunately, all we have done is compromise our health and well-being by eating fast food.
You probably have heard of the movie Super Size Me1. It was a documentary done by a man named Morgan Spurlock who filmed the results of his fast food only diet for 30 days. The results were even more shocking than he ever imagined. He ended up having to quit the experiment before the 30 days were up on the advisement of his doctor who told him he now had the liver function of an alcoholic. There have been even more experiments, human and in vivo, that show just how harmful a fast food diet is to our fundamental health, especially our gut microbiome1. See below how fast foods impact your gut microbiome which may affect certain aspects of your health.
1) Inflammation. Fast food diets are generally high in fat and low in fiber, which can throw off your gut micobiome balance. This may reduce the growth of good bacteria that produce beneficial short chain fatty acids like butyrate, known to play a role in reducing inflammation. For example, a small study put South Africans on a “westernized” fast food diet and Americans on a high fiber diet similar to South Africans for two weeks. The results showed that butyrate levels were cut in half for the South African group and for the American group the butyrate levels nearly doubled1.
2) Metabolism. Studies show that high fat diets alter the gut microbiome which has an effect on our metabolism2. It seems that the gut microbiome may be linked to how energy is extracted from our food and how fat (energy) is stored3. Healthy gut bacteria may increase our metabolism while unhealthy gut bacteria may help store fat.
3) Immune System. Fast food has also been found to negatively affect our immune system. What we eat affects our gut microbiome which interacts with our immune cells within our gut4. Our over indulgence of fast food consisting of mainly fat, salt and sugar has been shown in some studies to cause inflammation and poor immune function4.
So, the moral of the story is… eat a diet of natural whole foods to support your gut health. Also, to fill in the gaps where your daily diet might by lacking, take science-based, nutritional supplements like EpiCor fermentate that acts like a prebiotic to support a healthy gut microbiome. We all indulge in a fast food “treat” once in a while, but don’t make it a mainstay of your diet. Your body and its gut microbiome is very responsive to what we put into it. Start adding good whole foods to your diet and see how you feel!