So, how can we look after our guts?
Eating the following can help:-
- More fibre like whole grains, leafy greens like spinach or kale. When gut bacteria ferment fibre, they produce short-chain fatty acids which encourage proper function in the cells lining the colon. Spinach and kale contain a sugar that helps healthy gut bacteria to grow.
- Nuts and avocados. These are a good source of potassium which help to promote healthy digestive function.
- A wide range of plant-based foods. A healthy gut has a diverse community of microbes and each of them prefer different foods. A word of caution. Those of you who are prone to gas and bloating may need to be careful of eating too many fruits that are high in fructose like apples, pears and mangos.
On the other hand, berries, citrus fruits and bananas are easier to tolerate because of their lower fructose content and less likely to cause gas. Even better, bananas contain a substance called ‘inulin’ which stimulates good bacteria in the gut.
- Eat fermented foods that contain live microbes like unsweetened yoghurt, kefir (sour milk drink) sauerkraut, soybean based products and kimchi. Kimchi is a Korean dish made from garlic, cabbage and chilli.
I don’t eat sauerkraut and kimchi but one day, I might try them.
- Excellent news! Alcohol has been shown to increase microbe diversity.
Bad news! Only drink alcohol in small amounts otherwise large amounts are harmful to microbes.
Avoid or reduce eating the following:-
- Highly processed foods. These foods can cause inflammation in the lining of our GI tract. Our guts may not recognise junk food as digestible food and they may think they are invaders. Therefore, an inflammatory response in our bodies fight these foods as though they are infections. Also, these foods can often contain ingredients that either suppress ‘good’ bacteria or increase ‘bad’ bacteria.
- Red meat because it has been found to promote colon bacteria that produces chemicals associated with an increase risk of clogging the arteries.
- Artificial sweeteners like aspartame because they disrupt the microbes’ metabolism.
Doing the following can also promote good gut health:-
- Eating slowly and chewing food throughly can help to promote full digestion and absorption of nutrients.
- Drinking plenty of water has been shown to have a beneficial effect on the mucosal lining of the intestines, as well as on the balance of good bacteria in the gut.
- Exercising regularly. Research shows that it changes the composition of microbiota in the gut, decreases inflammation and increases beneficial bacteria, which have links with a better metabolism.
- Reduce stress because it can either slow down digestion causing bloating, pain and constipation or speed it up causing diarrhoea.
- Spend more time in the countryside. Gardening and other outdoor activities are good for microbiome.
- Stroke animals. Studies have shown that people who own dogs have more microbe diversity.
- Try not to take antibiotics because they destroy good and bad microbes.
healthline.com, bbc.co.uk, nhs.co.uk, medicalnewstoday.com, hopkinsmedicine.org, health.harvard.edu, sciencefocus.com