Why organic is better for your gut

Why organic is better for your gut

By College of Naturopathic Medicine graduate Elle Fox

With over 100 billion microorganisms for every gram of intestinal content, more serotonin (happiness hormone) receptors than your brain and 100 million neurons in your gut, it’s no wonder your moods and health are hugely influenced by what you eat: scientists are increasingly discovering proof that the quality of food (including where and how it’s grown, what it was sprayed with and how far it has travelled) influences the number and variety of the microorganisms in your digestive tract. A rich, diverse intestinal population helps you bounce back faster from illness and medical interventions (such as antibiotic use), and there is strong evidence it may boost metabolism, eliminate cravings and help you shed unwanted weight, not to mention improve your mood. Do I have your attention yet?

Recent research [1] suggests that organic food is better for the microbiome. Eating organic reduces exposure to pesticides, which disrupt the gut flora and cause health issues. Healthy soils, typically associated with organic cultivation, produce healthier food. Diversity in the Western diet has sharply declined over the past 70 years, so it is more important than ever to really pay attention to ‘eating a rainbow’.

A lot is said about probiotics and how fermented foods help to enrich your gut [2]. Probiotics are foods containing beneficial microbe colonies, and help to increase such colonies in your gastrointestinal tract.

But this is not the whole story… Enter prebiotics, types of fibre that provide food for beneficial microbe colonies, promoting their activity and growth.

Many foods, including fruit, vegetables and wholegrains, naturally contain prebiotic fibre. Organic produce, when minimally processed or fermented, is rich in these types of fibre (which become lost with processing). It offers your gut biome a really healthy workout, including the production of ‘short-chain fatty acids’, the main source of food for colon cells. Research [3] shows that these fatty acids are absorbed into the bloodstream and promote metabolic health, help insulin and cholesterol regulation, reduce inflammation and may lower the possibility of colorectal cancer.

And here comes the third ‘P’ in the story: polyphenols. Antioxidant-rich micronutrients in certain plant-based foods. They provide food for gut bacteria and can support a wide range of health issues, including weight management, diabetes, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular disease.

So what to do? Well, eat an organic rainbow:

  • Eat more organic, prebiotic-rich foods: legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans), oats, bananas, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, garlic, onions, leeks, nuts and seeds
  • Eat more fermented (probiotic-rich) foods: live yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, miso, natto, tempeh and sourdough bread
  • Eat more polyphenol-rich foods: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, olive oil, red wine, dark chocolate, green tea
  • Avoid processed foods: they contain very little, if any fibre, their nutrient profile is poor and replaced with artificial colourings, flavourings, preservatives and trans-fats (none of which are good for your gut)
  • Remember: your body is made to feast on naturally colourful food; its flavour, appearance, delicious smell, crispness and freshness won’t be found in highly processed, commercially produced food

If you have a really compromised gut, food allergies or intolerances, inflammatory conditions such as IBS/Crohn’s or Coeliac, the introduction of both pre- and pro-biotics needs to be done slowly and carefully, ideally with the support of an experienced nutritional therapist or naturopathic practitioner.

Try our Juicy Rainbow Salad recipe …


[1] Recent research suggests that organic food is better for the microbiome.

Association of Frequency of Organic Food Consumption With Cancer Risk. Findings From the NutriNet-Santé Prospective Cohort Study

Association Between Pesticide Residue Intake From Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables and Pregnancy Outcomes Among Women Undergoing Infertility Treatment With Assisted Reproductive Technology

An Apple a Day: Which Bacteria Do We Eat With Organic and Conventional Apples?

Prenatal and infant exposure to ambient pesticides and autism spectrum disorder in children: population based case-control study

Association Between Ultraprocessed Food Consumption and Risk of Mortality Among Middle-aged Adults in France

Effect of a 24-week randomized trial of an organic produce intervention on pyrethroid and organophosphate pesticide exposure among pregnant women

Monsanto must pay couple $2bn in largest verdict yet over cancer claims

How Glyphosate Affects Autism


[2] A lot is said about ‘probiotics’ and how fermented foods help enrich your gut.

Health-Promoting Fermented Foods

Fermentation-enabled wellness foods: A fresh perspective

Prebiotics and Probiotics in Altering Microbiota: Implications in Colorectal Cancer

Probiotic food consumption is associated with lower severity and prevalence of depression: A nationwide cross-sectional study

Fermented Milk in Protection Against Inflammatory Mechanisms in Obesity

Stress matters: Randomized controlled trial on the effect of probiotics on neurocognition

Reactive mechanism and the applications of bioactive prebiotics for human health: Review

Effect of probiotic and prebiotic vs placebo on psychological outcomes in patients with major depressive disorder: A randomized clinical trial

Prebiotics and probiotics for depression and anxiety: A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled clinical trials

A randomized clinical trial examining the impact of LGG probiotic supplementation on psychological status in middle-aged and older adults

Meta-omics insights in the microbial community profiling and functional characterization of fermented foods

High levels of branched chain fatty acids in n?tto and other Asian fermented foods

Eating Habits in Combating Disease: Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods at the Crossroads of Immune Health and Inflammatory Responses

Role of Gut Microbiota-Generated Short-Chain Fatty Acids in Metabolic and Cardiovascular Health

The Effects of Prebiotics and Substances with Prebiotic Properties on Metabolic and Inflammatory Biomarkers in Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review

Agave salmiana fructans as gut health promoters: Prebiotic activity and inflammatory response in Wistar healthy rats

Prebiotics and Probiotics in Digestive Health

Prebiotics and synbiotics: Recent concepts in nutrition

Dietary fiber from Indian edible seaweeds and its in-vitro prebiotic effect on the gut microbiota

Removal of bound polyphenols and its effect on antioxidant and prebiotics properties of carrot dietary fiber

Role of prebiotics in regulation of microbiota and prevention of obesity

Can prebiotics assist in the management of cognition and weight gain in schizophrenia?


[3] Research shows that these fatty acids are absorbed into the bloodstream …

Occurrence, absorption and metabolism of short chain fatty acids in the digestive tract of mammals.

Short-Chain Fatty Acid Production and Functional Aspects on Host Metabolism

CARBOHYDRATES: Digestion, Absorption, and Metabolism

Regulation of Immune Cell Function by Short Chain Fatty Acids and Their Impact on Arthritis

Naturopathy Lifestyle Interventions in Boosting Immune Responses in HIV-Positive Population