The trillions of bacteria in our gut have a profound influence on our health, metabolism, and disease protection.
A healthy gut contributes to a strong immune system, heart health, brain health, improved mood, skin conditions, healthy sleep, and effective digestion, and it may help prevent some cancers and autoimmune diseases.
The 100 trillion organisms that weigh up 2 kg, collectively referred to as gut microbiota, colonize the human intestine. They thrive in mutually advantageous equilibrium with us – the host.
The intestine offers a protected, warm and nutrient-rich micro-environment, while the gut microbiota assists in our digestion of complex carbohydrates, turning them into beneficial metabolites, like butyrate and vitamins.
The immune system tolerates the normal gut microbiota while ensuring immunosurveillance against invading pathogens.
The food you eat greatly affects the types of bacteria that live inside you.
Ways to improve your gut health...
Eat a diverse range of foods
Each species of bacteria plays a different role in your health & requires different nutrients for growth. A diet consisting of different food types leads to a diverse microbiota
Unfortunately, our Western diet is not very diverse and is rich in fat and sugar, In fact, it is estimated that 75% of the world’s food is produced from only 12 plant and 5 animal species.
Aim for 40 unique plants per week allowing the good microbes to proliferate and outnumber the bad and lead to better health outcomes.
Eat/drink Fermented foods
Fermented foods are foods that are altered by microbes. The process of fermenting usually involves bacteria or yeasts converting the sugars in food to organic acids or alcohol. Examples of fermented foods include:
Fermented foods, particularly plain, natural yogurt, can benefit the microbiota by enhancing its function and reducing the abundance of disease-causing bacteria in the intestines.
(Dad this does not include beer – I know – but keep on reading)
Eat Prebiotic Foods
Prebiotics are foods that promote the growth of beneficial microbes in the gut.
They are mainly fiber or complex carbs that can’t be digested by human cells. Instead, certain species of bacteria break them down and use them for fuel.
Many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contain prebiotics, but they can also be found on their own.
Resistant starch can also be prebiotic. This type of starch is not absorbed in the small intestine. Rather, it passes into the large intestine where it is broken down by the microbiota.
- legumes, beans, and peas
- Jerusalem artichokes (not the same as regular artichokes)
- dandelion greens
Eat Whole Grains
Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel ― the bran, germ, and endosperm. Examples of whole grains include whole-wheat flour, bulgur (cracked wheat), oats, and brown rice. Note – many instant or quick oats come sweetened or flavoured – so be sure to check for added sugar. Rolled & steel cut oats are less processed and they make you fuller for longer as they absorb more water.
Refined grains have been milled, a process that removes the bran and germ. This is done to give grains a finer texture and improve their shelf life, but it also removes dietary fibre, iron, and many B vitamins. Some examples of refined grain products are white flour, white bread, and white rice. Most refined grains are enriched. This means certain B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid) and iron are added back after processing. Fibre is not added back to enriched grains
Whole grains contain non-digestible carbs that can promote the growth of beneficial bacteria within the gut microbiota. These changes to the gut flora may improve certain aspects of metabolic health.
Eat Foods Rich in Polyphenols
Polyphenols are plant compounds that have many health benefits, including reductions in blood pressure, inflammation, cholesterol levels and oxidative stress
Polyphenols can’t always be digested by human cells. Given that they aren’t absorbed efficiently, most make their way to the colon, where they can be digested by gut bacteria
Good sources of polyphenols include:
- Cocoa and dark chocolate
- Red wine
- Grape skins
- Green tea
Reduce stress, get 7 to 8 hours sleep, stay hydrated, eat slowly, and notice your intolerances. You may need to change your diet.
We can drink red wine! But not the whole bottle , Sharon. We should be eating whole grains for a healthy digestive system.
Take care of your gut health – because it is the largest sum of your overall health – and it is the healing power of nutrition that makes it so.
The power of food to heal and restore has stood the test of time – as quoted by the Greek physician Hippocrates.
Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.