Gut Health And Oranges

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Feeling bloated, nauseous, fatigued, or moody lately? The state of your gastrointestinal health is a likely origin for these issues! Optimising gut health has become a major focus for general well-being in recent years, and for good reason! Your gut does far more than just digest food! When gut health suffers, it can wreak havoc on both physical and mental well-being.

Diet is critical for supporting a happy gut. Eating gut-nourishing foods can help to create the ideal conditions for healthy digestion and a flourishing internal body balance. One simple and delicious food that delivers important and gut-friendly nutrients is the orange. Keep reading to understand the components of a healthy gut and how regularly enjoying fresh oranges may boost your own digestive health!

Introduction

Definition of gut health

Gut health refers to the proper functioning of the gastrointestinal system (otherwise known as the digestive system), which comprises the stomach, intestines, mouth, oesophagus, and other digestive organs.1 Within a healthy gastrointestinal system lives a complex community of trillions of organisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms, and they are collectively known as the gut microbiota.2

Importance of gut health

Far beyond just digesting food, the gut and its microbiome influence many more bodily functions.2 A healthy gut allows for optimal nutrient absorption from food items being digested,3 regular bowel movements and removal of waste products,4 balanced immune functions to resist infections and protect the body from harm,5 decreased inflammation,6 positive effects on both your mood and cognition.7 An imbalance within the gastrointestinal system can contribute to digestive problems, skin conditions, autoimmune disease, obesity, depression, and many other issues.2

Role of diet in gut health

The choices we make regarding our diet and nutrition play a major role in shaping the gut microbiome and promoting good digestive health. Eating a diet rich in gut-friendly foods helps create the ideal conditions for a happy, flourishing, and healthy gut.

Components of gut health

Microbiota

  1. Definition and contents

As mentioned earlier, the gut microbiota refers to the normal and healthy community of microorganisms inhabiting the gastrointestinal tract. The majority of the gut microbiota is made up of bacteria, but a smaller portion is composed of other organisms such as viruses, fungi, protozoa, and other microbes. The microbiota is an entire community and ecosystem, with different organisms playing different roles.2

  1. Importance of a balanced microbiome

A flourishing and diverse microbiota aids digestion efficiency by breaking down fibres, fermenting carbohydrates, and producing vitamins, all of which are vital for health beyond the gut itself. It also helps regulate immunity, synthesise key nutrients, and protect against infection. Imbalances in the gut microbiome have been linked with gastrointestinal issues and numerous other chronic diseases.

Gut barrier integrity

  1. Definition and function

The Gastrointestinal system is often called a “tract”. This is because it is mostly shaped like a long, convoluted tube extending from the mouth to the anus. The inner lining of the gastrointestinal tract acts as a barrier between the internal and external environments (inside and outside the tract). Tight junctions between the cells that form this tract produce a barrier, which regulates what passes through.

  1. Leaky gut and health impact

Inflammation and permeability in the gut barrier can allow toxins, microbes, and undigested food particles to go beyond where they are normally supposed to be located and enter the bloodstream. This “leaky gut” contributes to food sensitivities, fatigue, joint pain, and autoimmunity.

The gut-brain axis

  1. Overview of gut-brain connection

Just like every other organ in the body, the gastrointestinal tract and its functions are controlled by the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain and the spinal cord. This communication between the gastrointestinal tract and brain goes both ways and is known as the gut-brain axis.8 This communication occurs through neural, hormonal, and immunological pathways.8

  1. Impact on mental health

Some gut microbes can produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which have regulatory effects on mood and cognition. An unbalanced microbiome may contribute to anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.7

The role of diet in gut health

Fibre

  1. Importance of dietary fibre

Fibre feeds the beneficial gut bacteria, which in turn ferment it to produce short-chain fatty acids, which are very useful in the body, performing a diverse range of functions.9 Fiber also adds bulk to stool and speeds up the transit time of food in the gut, promoting healthy bowel movement.

  1. Recommended intake and sources

The recommended dietary intake of fibre is about 38 grams per day for assigned males at birth (AMAB) and about 25 grams per day for assigned females at birth (AFAB). Sources of dietary fibre are vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and, of course, oranges.

Prebiotics and probiotics

  1. Definition and functions

Prebiotics are fibres that our bodies can’t break down but help nourish healthy gut bacteria. Probiotics are live microorganisms that are beneficial to our health. Eating these microorganisms can balance out gut bacteria.

  1. How they support gut health

When you eat prebiotic and probiotic foods it helps your microbiota grow healthily due to well-known bacteria like Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria.

Anti-inflammatory foods

Overview of inflammation in the gut

In inflammation you have an immune response, however, excessive inflammation damages the lining of your gut. Food sensitivities, high-fat diets, and infections can all trigger inflammation.

Benefits of anti-inflammatory nutrients

Some nutrients, like omega-3 fats or polyphenols, reduce pro-inflammatory compounds in your stomach, which will protect your gut barrier.10

Oranges and gut health

Nutritional composition

  1. Vitamins and minerals

Oranges are packed full of many healthy vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, which supports immunity and increases the uptake of iron.11 They also provide other vitamins such as vitamin A, B vitamins, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

  1. Fibre content

A medium orange contains about 3 grams of fibre, including gut-friendly pectin.

Impact on microbiota

  1. Prebiotic effects

Polyphenols, which are found in oranges, help to promote the growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli strains.

  1. Production of short-chain fatty acids

Oranges increase short-chain fatty acid production, which, as mentioned previously, benefits the integrity of the gut barrier function.

Anti-inflammatory properties

  1. Citrus flavonoids

Flavonoids like hesperidin and naringenin in oranges demonstrate anti-inflammatory activities and even have benefits as far-reaching as cancer prevention.12

  1. Reduction of inflammatory markers

Orange intake is associated with lower C-reactive protein (CRP) and other inflammatory markers.13

Incorporating oranges into a gut-healthy diet

Dietary recommendations

  1. Serving sizes and frequency

One to two whole oranges per day as a snack or meal accompaniment would be beneficial. It is also advisable to opt for whole fruit over juice for maximum fibre content.

  1. Complementary foods

In a complementary sense, oranges can be paired with prebiotic foods like onions, garlic, bananas, and asparagus. Aiming for a variety is advisable to nourish diverse microbes.

Considerations for specific groups

  1. Digestive disorders

People with certain digestive disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) or Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) would find it beneficial to introduce oranges cautiously into their diet, taking care to avoid it if there are any known symptoms, reactions or allergies.

  1. Allergies or intolerances

Avoid oranges if you have a citrus allergy or fructose intolerance.

Overall eating pattern

In addition to oranges, focusing on an overall diet rich in produce, nuts, seeds, fibre, and fermented items can be beneficial. Oranges are just one option of a plethora of gut-nourishing foods. However, they are an important, vital and delicious source of the much-needed nutrients that are vital for gut health.

Conclusion

Review of key points

The gut microbiome and barrier integrity are vital for health. Diet plays a major role in optimising gut health. Oranges provide important components and nutrients such as prebiotics, fibre and anti-inflammatories that support and optimise digestive function.

Summary of oranges’ benefits

With ample fibre, microbe-nourishing polyphenols, and anti-inflammatory compounds, oranges are an excellent addition to a gut-healthy eating pattern.

Practical guidance

It is advisable to make whole oranges a regular part of your diet, along with varied food products that have similar anti-inflammatory benefits. It is also advisable to include fermented foods and probiotic sources.

Taking steps daily to eat healthy and nourish your gut is certainly beneficial, not only for the health of the gut but for the benefit of the well-being of the whole body.

References

  1. Choct M. Managing gut health through nutrition. British Poultry Science [Internet]. 2009 Jan [cited 2023 Oct 12];50(1):9–15. Available from: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00071660802538632
  2. Valdes AM, Walter J, Segal E, Spector TD. Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health. BMJ [Internet]. 2018 Jun 13 [cited 2023 Oct 12];361:k2179. Available from: https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2179
  3. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2023 Oct 12]. Studies show role of human gut microbiome in nutrient absorption - NIDDK. Available from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/news/archive/2020/studies-role-human-gut-microbiome-diet-antibiotic-alter-nutrient-absorption
  4. Vandeputte D, Falony G, Vieira-Silva S, Tito RY, Joossens M, Raes J. Stool consistency is strongly associated with gut microbiota richness and composition, enterotypes and bacterial growth rates. Gut [Internet]. 2016 Jan 1 [cited 2023 Oct 12];65(1):57–62. Available from: https://gut.bmj.com/content/65/1/57
  5. Lu Y, Yuan X, Wang M, He Z, Li H, Wang J, et al. Gut microbiota influences immunotherapy responses: mechanisms and therapeutic strategies. Journal of Hematology & Oncology [Internet]. 2022 Apr 29 [cited 2023 Oct 12];15(1):47. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1186/s13045-022-01273-9
  6. Wang J, Chen WD, Wang YD. The relationship between gut microbiota and inflammatory diseases: the role of macrophages. Frontiers in Microbiology [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2023 Oct 12];11. Available from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2020.01065
  7. Chakrabarti A, Geurts L, Hoyles L, Iozzo P, Kraneveld AD, La Fata G, et al. The microbiota–gut–brain axis: pathways to better brain health. Perspectives on what we know, what we need to investigate and how to put knowledge into practice. Cell Mol Life Sci [Internet]. 2022 Jan 19 [cited 2023 Oct 12];79(2):80. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00018-021-04060-w
  8. Mayer EA, Nance K, Chen S. The gut–brain axis. Annu Rev Med [Internet]. 2022 Jan 27 [cited 2024 Feb 25];73(1):439–53. Available from: https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/10.1146/annurev-med-042320-014032
  9. Lewis G, Wang B, Shafiei Jahani P, Hurrell BP, Banie H, Aleman Muench GR, et al. Dietary fiber-induced microbial short chain fatty acids suppress ilc2-dependent airway inflammation. Frontiers in Immunology [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2023 Oct 12];10. Available from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2019.02051
  10. Costantini L, Molinari R, Farinon B, Merendino N. Impact of omega-3 fatty acids on the gut microbiota. Int J Mol Sci [Internet]. 2017 Dec 7 [cited 2023 Oct 12];18(12):2645. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5751248/
  11. Lynch SR, Cook JD. Interaction of vitamin C and iron. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1980;355:32–44.
  12. Madureira MB, Concato VM, Cruz EMS, Bitencourt de Morais JM, Inoue FSR, Concimo Santos N, et al. Naringenin and hesperidin as promising alternatives for prevention and co-adjuvant therapy for breast cancer. Antioxidants [Internet]. 2023 Mar [cited 2023 Oct 12];12(3):586. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3921/12/3/586
  13. Miles EA, Calder PC. Effects of citrus fruit juices and their bioactive components on inflammation and immunity: a narrative review. Frontiers in Immunology [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2023 Oct 12];12. Available from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2021.712608

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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MBBS Babcock, University, Nigeria
MPH, University Of York, UK

David is a seasoned and compassionate medical professional with several years of experience providing exemplary patient care. While earning his medical degree in Nigeria, he honed his skills
during internships in India. As a licensed physician in Nigeria, David has worked in leading hospitals and clinics in the country. In his pursuit for further knowledge, he gained a Master’s degree in Public Health from the University of York.

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