How to Feed Your Gut
Ten years ago, nobody knew they had a microbiome. Today the health of the community of microbes living in and on our bodies has become very important as we become increasingly aware of its role within our body.
Our gut microbiome regulates many of our body functions, e.g. :-
Creating Vitamins B and K
Controlling our immune function
Acting as a messenger to our nerves and brain
And supporting our metabolism and weight
They are critical to our long term health
Unfortunately, our 21st Century lifestyle is a little unkind to our microbiota. The Standard western diet is very processed and refined, starving them of the fibre they need. The chemical and environmental toxins we are exposed to makes things worth. In addition, the antibiotics and other drugs we take not only deplete or beneficial bacteria (along with the pathogens) but they also can damage our delicate gut lining causing inflammation and the activation of our immune system. This is understandable when we realise that @70% of our immune system lies in the gut.
We need to find ways of supporting our beneficial gut bacteria so that they can ensure that the pathogens don’t take over!
Here are some top tips:-
- Remember the 3 Ps
Prebiotics Probiotics Polyphenols
Prebiotics are found in plant foods and provide the gut flora with insoluble fibre to chew on. These are found in plant foods especially leeks, onions, garlic, chicory, artichokes, asparagus, oats and lentils
Make plants the basis of your meals and you won’t go too far wrong
Probiotics are found in foods that have been fermented. This is a way of adding beneficial bacteria to your existing internal stock. Look for foods like yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, miso, kimchi, sauerkraut, Apple Cider Vinegar and even sourdough bread.
Polyphenols are a type of phytochemical (plant chemical) that are part of the plant’s defence system. They add important nutritional content to our food. Many of the health benefits associated with polyphenols may be related to their role as antioxidants. Antioxidants are known for their ability to combat cell damage. Polyphenols may also impact genes and gene expression. Polyphenols seem to act as a prebiotic-type substance, meaning that they increase the number of healthy bacteria in the gut, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria strains. They often have an astringent mouth puckering quality. You will find them in most plants but some that are especially good for the gut are found in dark berries-anthocyanins, dark grapes- resveratrol ; cacao- flavanols and apples – quercetin. So, it seems that red wine, chocolate and cider must be good for us! ….Well, in moderation maybe! Even coffee contains a good dose of polyphenols
2. Try to keep your intake of refined foods to a minimum. This should also reduce your sugar and fat consumption which adversely affects our gut bacteria. Artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers and other additives are also very bad for our microbiome.
3. Exercise, but don t over exercise as this produces excess cortisol which can harm your gut lining. Similarly, stress produces cortisol which will affect not only the gut lining but your balance of gut bacteria, so try to find ways to relax.
4. Avoid antibiotics if you can, as these have a habit of damaging the good as well as the bad gut bacteria. If possible consider taking probiotic supplements while you are taking them or just after a course. Remember to take the probiotics with food and 2 hours away from your medication. Excess over the counter NSAIDs can have a similar damaging effect.
5. Give your bugs a break. This means taking a rest from eating – ensuring you give them a break of about 12 hours after your evening meal. Studies show that this helps beneficial bacteria establish themselves within your gut
6. Diversity – eat as wide a range of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, as you can. This will help you a wide range of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Research shows that a diverse wholefoods diet produces a diverse gut bacteria colony, and this equates with good health.