All diseases begin in the gut, according to Hippocrates. We’re finding out he was right.

Research links the microbiome and gut bacteria to a host of diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, metabolic syndrome and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, according to an article in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

Our guts literally have hundreds of different species of bacteria living in there. And they play a vital role in the production of short-chain fatty acids needed to maintain the junctions between cells as well as the synthesis of vitamin K and folic acid.

Our gut microbiome also plays a role in our mental health and the promotion of anti-inflammatory cytokines, which, in turn, inhibit disease.

So, how do we make sure we have good gut bacteria? It goes back to what we eat.

Not surprisingly, a highly processed diet with many food additives has been shown to induce gut problems. And eating a whole-food, plant-based diet supports healthy gut microbiota, anti-inflammation and healthy cell junctions.

Focus on leafy green vegetables, nuts, legumes, foods high in omega-3s (such as salmon and walnuts), onions, garlic, bananas and yogurt to build your good gut health. Stay away from highly processed foods. It’s a decision that will have an impact on your overall health.


Q: Are there really superfoods?

A: We hear about them all the time. They are nutrient-dense foods that are good to include in a healthy meal plan — but not to the exclusion of other foods. That’s because we get nutrients from a lot of different foods. And the recommendation of balance, variety and moderation still holds true.

While leafy greens, tomatoes, tea, garlic, onion, blueberries, beans, cruciferous vegetables, carrots and walnuts all may be healthy foods, there are many others as well. Try to include new foods in your diet and get as many colors and varieties as you can for a healthy plan.

Pumpkin Muffins

This is the season when the grocery aisles start to offer pumpkin spice everything.

I personally love anything pumpkin. Pumpkin, a vegetable, provides plenty of vitamin A and is low in calories. We tend to negate some of its healthfulness by adding plenty of sugar to our much-loved pumpkin desserts.

Here’s a recipe that’s healthy and full of pumpkin flavor: a pumpkin muffin at less than 100 calories that you can make in your blender. It’s from CookingLight.


» 2 cups rolled oats

» 1 cup pumpkin puree

» 2 eggs

» 1 cup plain Greek yogurt

» ¼ cup maple syrup

» 1½ teaspoons baking powder

» ½ teaspoon baking soda

» ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

» ⅛ teaspoon salt

» 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 12-cup muffin pan with muffin cup liners, or spray with cooking spray. In a blender, process the oats until they have the consistency of flour, about 1 minute. Combine the remaining ingredients with the oat flour in the blender. Blend until smooth and creamy, about 1-2 minutes.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle with toppings of your choice, such as additional rolled oats.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool muffins in pan 5 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on a wire rack.


Makes 12 muffins

Per muffin: 99 calories; 4.5 grams protein; 16 grams carbohydrates; 2.2 grams fat; 1 milligram cholesterol; 2 grams fiber; 5.8 grams sugar; 133 milligrams sodium

— Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois. Contact her at, or follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd, or click here for additional columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois, and the current president of the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Contact her at, and follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd. The opinions expressed are her own.