By Dr. Sean Wells, DPT, PT, OCS, ATC/L, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, CNPT, Cert-DN
In prior blog posts, and definitely within our board-approved continuing education courses, we have discussed the gut microbiome at length. It is an amazing array of bacteria, fungi, and archaea that help to produce compounds, integrate with our immune responses, and may be linked to certain diseases. While all of this seems promising we have to be honest that the literature regarding what exact mechanisms and species that are linked with disease states still remains to be seen.
However, we do know that promoting the amount and diversity of the gut biome content is a positive thing. Best recommendations for this would include eating a variety of foods, consuming fiber, enjoying foods rich in probiotics (e.g. miso, fermented foods), and avoiding broad-spectrum antibiotics when possible. Another fun, recent finding is that another food additive may help boost the gut biome: spices!
In the recent herbs and spices study scientists analyzed the impact of adding blends of herbs and spices to individuals at risk for heart disease. The spice blend offered to the subjects included cinnamon, ginger, cumin, turmeric, rosemary, oregano, basil and thyme. Subjects consumed the blend in capsule form at three different doses: 1/8 teaspoon per day, ~3/4 teaspoon per day, and about 1 1/2 teaspoon per day. Each diet was provided for 4 weeks with a minimum 2 week washout period. At baseline and the end of each diet period, participants provided a fecal sample for gut biome sequencing
At the end of four weeks, participants showed an significant increase in gut bacteria diversity, including an increase in Ruminococcaceae. The effect was strongest with the medium and high doses of herbs and spices. Ruminococcaceae bacteria has been associated with a reduction in antibiotic induced diarrhea and obesity and metabolic disturbances. Having improved diversity of the gut microbiome may lead to other positive health benefits like a reduced risk of auto-immune, neurodegenerative, and inflammatory diseases.
Obviously the study has some limitations such as the population being at risk for heart disease and the fact that simply finding improvements in the gut biome may not directly translate into improvements in health. Despite these limitations, I think it is important for physical therapists to see that simply adding spices, as little as 1 ½ teaspoons, can confer positive gut biome benefits. On top of that, PTs can help patients by educating their patients to cut back on salt and fat (e.g. added oils) and use spices instead to make food more delicious. I think a PT offering the recommendation to add some spices is better than pushing an unregulated supplement any day. Spices are regulated, natural, and add flavor – outside of an allergy, there is very little downside. Spice up your food and your life and enjoy!
If you like what you see here then know there is more in our 3 board-approved continuing education courses on Nutrition specific for Physical Therapists. Enroll today in our new bundled course offering and save 20%, a value of $60!
Learn about the Top 5 Functional Foods to Fight Inflammation and Pain in Physical Therapy.
Keywords: nutrition, diet, continuing education, spice, gut biome, health, PT, physical therapy, gut health, rehab, DPT
Disclaimer: The above article is written as an opinion piece and does not convey specific legal, medical, and/or practice act advice.