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Herbsprout is a webblog and podcast dedicated to sharing the health benefits of herbs, food, innovations related to our gut microbiome. Herbsprout seeks to bridge the vast chasm dividing the mainstream medical community and alternative medicine.

our friends, polyphenols

our friends, polyphenols
Polyphenols are a diverse group of naturally occurring compounds found in plants. They are known for their antioxidant properties, which help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Additionally, polyphenols have been linked to various health benefits, including reducing inflammation, improving heart health, and potentially lowering the risk of certain chronic diseases such as cancer and neurodegenerative disorders.
Specifically, they neutralize free radicals which are naturally created unpaired electrons (but also created by air pollution, UV radiation or cigarette smoke). These unpaired electrons in our bodies can damage our cells, proteins, and DNA, leading to oxidative stress and life threatening diseases.
A March 18 2024 Medical News Today report referred to the health benefits of polyphenols to our gut. Research by National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, based on data from the International Cohort on Lifestyle Determinants of Health (INCLD HealthTrusted Source), showed an increase of polyphenols in our diet leads to an increase in healthy gut bacteria such as Lactobacillus and a decrease in harmful bacteria among participants in the study.
Polyphenols are commonly found in foods like fruits, vegetables, tea, coffee, red wine, and dark chocolate.
Examples of polyphenols found in plants are:
Flavonoids: Found in fruits (such as apples, berries, and citrus fruits), vegetables (like onions and kale), tea, red wine, and cocoa. Subtypes include quercetin, catechins, and anthocyanins.

Phenolic acids: Present in fruits (especially berries), vegetables (like spinach and potatoes), whole grains, and some beverages such as coffee and wine. Examples include caffeic acid, ferulic acid, and ellagic acid.
Stilbenes: Found in grapes (especially in the skin), berries, peanuts, and red wine. Resveratrol is a well-known stilbene.

Lignans: Abundant in flaxseeds, sesame seeds, whole grains, and some fruits and vegetables.

Tannins: Present in tea, wine, nuts, berries, and some legumes. They contribute to the astringent taste in foods and beverages.

These are just a few examples, as polyphenols are widespread in the plant kingdom and can be found in various plant-based foods.
What do these polyphenols do?
Polyphenols such as flavonoids, have several beneficial effects on health:
Antioxidant activity: Flavonoids help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body, protecting cells from oxidative damage.

Anti-inflammatory properties: They can help reduce inflammation, which is linked to various chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.

Cardiovascular benefits: Flavonoids may improve heart health by promoting healthy blood flow, reducing blood pressure, and improving blood vessel function.
Immune system support: Some flavonoids have been shown to enhance the immune system’s response to infections and other challenges.

Potential cancer protection: Certain flavonoids have been studied for their potential anti-cancer properties, including inhibiting the growth of cancer cells and reducing the risk of tumor formation.

Neuroprotective effects: Flavonoids may help protect brain cells from damage, potentially reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Overall, including flavonoid-rich foods in your diet, such as fruits, vegetables, tea, and dark chocolate, can contribute to better health and well-being.
More on MCTs and polyphenols:

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Gut microbe series 3: Faecalibacterium prausnitzii

Gut microbe series 3: Faecali...
The first two of the “gut microbe series are well known relative to the other top 10. Though “Number 3, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii,” is a lesser known bacteria in our gut, it plays an important role in maintaining a healthy gut.
Faecalibacterium prausnitzii produces butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) that nourishes the cells lining the colon and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Overall, SCFAs play a critical role in protecting the colon by maintaining barrier function, reducing inflammation, providing energy, and regulating immune function. Faecalibacterium prausnitzii primarily produce butyrate, although it can also produce small amounts of acetate and formate. Butyrate is the main short-chain fatty acid it produces.
Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), such as butyrate, acetate, and propionate, play a crucial role in protecting the colon in several ways:
Maintaining Gut Barrier Integrity: SCFAs help to strengthen the intestinal barrier, which prevents harmful substances from entering the bloodstream and reduces the risk of inflammation and infection.
Anti-inflammatory Effects: Butyrate, in particular, has potent anti-inflammatory properties. It helps to reduce inflammation in the colon, which is important for conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Providing Energy: SCFAs serve as an energy source for the cells lining the colon. This helps to maintain the health and function of these cells, contributing to overall gut health.
Regulating Immune Function: SCFAs can modulate the activity of immune cells in the gut, helping to maintain immune homeostasis and prevent excessive immune responses that can lead to inflammation and tissue damage.
Because faecalibacterium prausnitzii naturally inhabits the human gut it cannot be found in specific foods or herbs. While Faecalibacterium prausnitzii may not be directly present in foods, consuming probiotic-rich foods can contribute to overall gut health. You can promote the growth of this beneficial bacterium by consuming the following:
Dietary Fiber: Foods rich in dietary fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts.
Prebiotics: Certain types of fiber, known as prebiotics, include inulin, found in chicory root, garlic, onions, and leeks, and oligosaccharides found in foods like legumes.
Polyphenol-rich Foods: Polyphenols, found in foods like berries, cocoa, green tea, and red wine.

Fermented Foods: Foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha contain probiotics.
While specific foods can support the growth of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii indirectly, maintaining a diverse and balanced diet that includes plenty of fiber-rich foods, prebiotics, and polyphenols is key to promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, such as Faecalibacterium prausnitzii.

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