Whole Wheat Reduces Inflammation and Improves Microbiome

whole wheat reduces inflammation

Photo by Roger Karlsson

By Case Adams, Naturopath

Yes, it is true that gluten doesn’t agree with everyone. Some are sensitive to gluten for different reasons. But as I explained with scientific rigor in The Gluten Cure, there is more than meets the eye (or the internet) with regard to gluten. And there are natural solutions to gluten sensitivities.

There is also significant recent research that confirms that certain whole wheat foods can promote gut health. And decrease inflammation.

This is also illustrated in a new clinical study published in the American Journal of Nutrition.

Whole wheat reduces inflammation

The researchers, from the University of Naples, tested 80 people who were overweight or obese. They also had a low consumption of fruits and vegetables. (Hmm, what a shock.)

The subjects were split randomly into two groups. One group was given whole wheat foods that replaced their previous refined wheat foods. The other continued eating refined wheat foods.

The study lasted eight weeks. Blood, urine and feces of the subjects were analyzed before, during and after the study. The subjects were also tested for other physiological measures.

The group that ate the whole wheat foods had significantly reduced inflammation within the gut. This was determined by reduced tumor necrosis factor-alpha levels (TNF-a) along with increased interleukin-10 levels. Lower TNF-a levels illustrate reduced inflammation. Increased IL-10 levels indicate increased gut immunity.

The subjects who ate the whole wheat also had reduced plasminogen activator inhibitor 1, which illustrates a lower degree of artery inflammation.

Whole wheat increases probiotics and decreases clostridium

Those eating the whole wheat foods also experienced an increase in the lactobacilli colonies and bacteriodes colonies. This means their probiotic colonies grew.

This was accompanied by an increase in dihydroferulic acid in the blood and ferulic acid in the feces. Both indicate a better adjusted microbiome, which results in reduced inflammation throughout the body.

Furthermore, the research found those on the whole wheat diet had reduced colonies of Clostridium species. Clostridium is associated with numerous inflammatory gut conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome and others.

Whole wheat improves microbiome

Eight weeks is certainly too short to see permanent changes in the gut’s microbiome. However, one of the more important changes within the digestive tracts of the subjects was in fact their microbiome.

In these eight short weeks, the researchers found increased levels of the microbiome type called Bacteroidetes. This microbiome is seen in greater numbers among healthier people. People with less inflammation. And people with less obesity.

Mice studies have confirmed this relationship between the microbiome groups, bacteroidetes and firmicutes. The firmicutes type tends to increase fat storage and calorie extraction.

The issue appears to be related to a gene called TLR5, which apparently identifies bacteria in the gut. In the absence of bacteria – or in the absence of the gene itself as found in mice studies – excessive appetite results. This produces an increased risk of obesity.

Apparently, firmicutes microbiome also results in greater energy extraction. This means more calories are being extracted from the foods.

Brain inflammation, microbiome and diet

As long as we’re talking microbiome, I should probably mention a very new study. This is a mice study. Personally I am not a fan of mice studies not only because of the cruelty aspect, but because mice have metabolic differences with humans. Thus mice study findings are not always appropriate when applied to humans.

This particular study found that mice fed a high-fat diet had a worsening of their gut microbiome. They had greater gut permeability (leaky gut). They also greater inflammation factors in the gut. And increased inflammation in the brain.

While again we cannot necessarily apply this to humans, it may indicate that diets with higher fat content produce greater brain inflammation.

This news, however, is really not news because many studies on humans have shown that the Mediterranean Diet reduces inflammation and the risk of dementia and other neuroinflammatory diseases. The Med diet of course is a lower-fat diet. But its primary benefit is that it consists of better types of fats. Fats such as monounsaturates and omega-3 fats.

Wheat, diet and our microbiome

You probably thought this article was going to be only about wheat. Sorry about that. The point of laying out this research is that our diet directly affects our gut bacteria. And our gut bacteria affect our levels of inflammation. Not only in the gut. But in the brain. And the rest of the body.

As I discussed in another article about our probiotics, whole wheat happens to feed certain types of probiotics in our gut. These include certain species of lactobacilli but also bifidobacteria. The latter of which also happen to live in our colon and reduce the risk of colon cancer.

This prebiotic ingredient of whole wheat is called arabinoxylan oligosaccharide. Oligosaccharides are complex prebiotic molecules that feed our gut bacteria. This is what the “O” stands for in FOS, TOS and GOS prebiotics.

Because arabinoxylan is part of the outer shell of the wheat berry, it is mostly absent in refined wheat foods.

Worse, refined wheat foods will have an extraordinary amount of gluten. As a proportion of gluten to arabinoxylan, a very great amount of gluten.

The funny thing is, about those gut bacteria that secrete the enzymes that break down gluten into harmless amino acids: They also happen to feed off of the arabinoxylans in the whole wheat.

Nature is funny that way.

Read more funny stuff about gluten in The Gluten Cure.

REFERENCES:

Vitaglione P, Mennella I, Ferracane R, Rivellese AA, Giacco R, Ercolini D, Gibbons SM, La Storia A, Gilbert JA, Jonnalagadda S, Thielecke F, Gallo MA, Scalfi L, Fogliano V. Whole-grain wheat consumption reduces inflammation in a randomized controlled trial on overweight and obese subjects with unhealthy dietary and lifestyle behaviors: role of polyphenols bound to cereal dietary fiber. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Feb;101(2):251-61. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.088120.

Bruce-Keller AJ, Salbaum JM, Luo M, Blanchard E 4th, Taylor CM, Welsh DA, Berthoud HR. Obese-type Gut Microbiota Induce Neurobehavioral Changes in the Absence of Obesity. Biol Psychiatry. 2015 Apr 1;77(7):607-15. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.07.012.

Everard A, Lazarevic V, Gaïa N, Johansson M, Ståhlman M, Backhed F, Delzenne NM, Schrenzel J, François P, Cani PD. Microbiome of prebiotic-treated mice reveals novel targets involved in host response during obesity. ISME J. 2014 Oct;8(10):2116-30. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2014.45.

 

Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn ones health around. As I drove home that night, I realized I needed to get this knowledge out to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.” Case connects with the elements by surfing, hiking and being a beach bum.

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