Protein & the gut

By The Gut Health Doctor Team

Dr Megan Rossi in a lab looking through a microscope

Did you know eating too much meat (protein) and not enough plants (fibre) is linked with poor gut health?

In fact research from my PhD showed increasing the protein:fibre ratio in your diet (which I termed the protein:fibre index), rather than the nutrients in isolation, was associated with increased gut-derived toxins. Essentially, eating excess protein and not enough fibre can lead to a more ‘aggressive’ GM (gut microbiota, the trillions of microbes living in our guts) environment – not to mention foul-smelling gas.

That’s because when our microbes ferment too much protein, they release chemicals that have been associated with negative health outcomes, which have been implicated in colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Now that does NOT mean you need to cut out all animal products, meat included, but it does mean it’s a good idea to side your protein with plenty of gut-loving fibre from all our plant-based foods. It’s all about balance.

We’ve since replicated this with collaborators from the Karolinska Institute, suggesting the protein:fibre index is linked with heart disease too! Although this research was in people with early stage kidney disease, I suspect this index is going to be important for the general population too.

When it comes to post exercise nutrition, it is true that protein is important, but research suggests that 20g of protein is the ‘sweet’ spot. Meaning above this amount there are no additional muscle-recovery benefits, despite most protein supplements providing much more than this (unbalancing the protein:fibre index). It’s also worth keeping in mind that the vast majority of protein powders, drinks and bars all have refined sources of protein (protein isolates) along with several food additives such as sweeteners and emuslfiers meaning they are all ultra-processed and may have a negative impact on the gut.

Instead of those ultra-processed protein-supplements, to get your 20g protein + fibre try:

  • Two boiled eggs and a handful of mixed nuts
  • 1 pot of Bio&Me kefir yoghurt and a sprinkle of Bio&Me high fibre granola



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