Be sure to eat your oats!

Oats, Avena sativa, are one of the more common grains eaten since the Bronze Age. It is particularly popular amongst people that are gluten sensitive, although gluten sensitivity is far more complex than most articles would suggest. Gluten is a mixture of hundreds of different proteins, with gliadins from wheat being some of the most immunoreactive. Technically, avenins in oats are a form of gluten as well, though they are not as reactive. (Biesiekierski) Many people who are sensitive to wheat are not sensitive to gluten. However, gluten sensitivity has the potential to also sensitize a person to other grains such as oats (Sandhu).
Oats have one hundred times the membrane lipids than other foods, a good amino acid profile that is high in glutamine (which helps heal the intestinal mucosa) and are high in beta glucans that beneficial bacteria can metabolize. Fermentations of oats can produce over 1000 different species and strains of Lactobacillus (Bengmark).
It is important to note that while the greatest benefits of oats may occur in their fermented state, oats are a useful prebiotic that feeds beneficial bacteria and may change both the gut bacteria and immune function (Valeur). Fermentation of oats by Lactobacillus strains results in tremendous health benefits (Dharmasena, Bernat, Zhang) which can even be used to create a fermented baby food (Rasane). It should be noted that consuming a prebiotic such as oats feeds the beneficial bacteria already in the gut, so as long as a person is host to some Lactobacillus (and sadly, not everyone is!) then non-fermented oats would still be just as healthy. Without native Lactobacillus, the oats could “feed up” any remaining Lactobacillus symbionts and increase their populations, but there is more benefit in a shorter time to be had by fermenting the oats before consumption. This increases the level of Lactobacillus far beyond what is possible with any probiotic—though adding probiotics is still a good thing to make sure!
Oats have been found to reduce the postprandial glucose levels in overweight people (Lindstrom) which is critical to preventing a prediabetic state of reduced insulin sensitivity that leads to more inflammation. Controlling inflammation is central not only to Rheumatoid arthritis but also to a great many other health problems such as Type II diabetes. The Beta-glucans in oats have been found to effectively reduce inflammation, including specific cytokines such as Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha or TNF-α, a molecule well known to anyone battling rheumatoid arthritis. Other inflammatory factors such as Interleukin-10 are also reduced by fermented oats along with a proportionate increase in lactic acid bacteria (Wilczak).
Oats, as a prebiotic (Berger) or pre-fermented, help protect from the harmful effects of a high fat diet. Fermentation increases the polyphenols and antioxidants that are bioavailable (Luana). Polyphenols are also capable of reducing the effects of rheumatoid arthritis (Oliviero). Fermented oats have even been found to reduce gut leakiness that is caused by oxidative stress that results from consuming alcohol (Tang).
Elevated levels of Lactobacillus present in fermented oats have been found to protect the gut from harmful pathogens such as Clostridium difficile (Klarin). Fermented oats also help in the absorption of iron (Sering) while reducing intestinal permeability, which can help protect the liver from alcohol-related damage that occurs after intestinal permeability is compromised (Keshavarzian). Even after liver resection surgery (Wang) fermented oats prevent bacterial translocation (ie, bacteria passing through the gut wall due to abnormally increased permeability, which leads to lipopolysaccharide induced systemic inflammation) by a factor of 90%!
Fermented oats have been found to increase the resident Lactobacillus populations, as the added Lactobacillus is able to colonize the intestines, which then has been found to reduce levels of Clostridia by 100x, and pathogenic Enterobacteriaceae by a factor of 1000 (Johansson).
Of course, it is always better to purchase organic oats, because the herbicide Glyphosate, often sold as RoundUp, is used to “stage” crops such as oats and wheat to increase harvest yield by making sure all the plants are dead/dry and release their seed. This is an issue for gut bacteria health, as Glyphosate is toxic to bacteria. While often vehemently debated on Internet forums, the reality is easy to find if one pretends to be a farmer while Googling for information. Sample references are provided at the end of this article.
Oats are a tremendous prebiotic with gut-healing potential, which is increased by fermentation. The increase in Lactobacillus species and the improvement in immune function and gut permeability make this common food a winner!
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