Having difficulty deciding what to eat? In this day and age of so much information available about nutritious eating, it can be hard to determine which foods are best for a healthy gut.
Bacteria and your body
The balance between the beneficial and the pathogenic bacteria is required to maintain homeostasis and for several functions to occur. The majority of bacteria are in the colon.
This balance prevents them from becoming pathogenic. They stimulate the growth of the intestine lining and therefore protect the immune system. They form a part of the intestine barrier and prevent intestinal permeability.
The current health epidemic and the rise of chronic health diseases can be tied back to the combined result of the rapid changes in our modern diet, cultural practices, increasing rates of caesarean section births, reduction in breast feeding, vaccinations and antibiotic excesses, decrease in plant food intake, carbohydrate heavy diets and the increase in GMO foods. All these factors have created a recipe for microbiome disruption, dysbiosis and the loss of ecological diversity.
Why is your gut microbiome important?
It is the bacteria in your gut microbiome that helps synthesise biotin, folate and vitamin K. Without them, muscle activity in the intestine leads to constipation, the root of most health issues.
They are also your perpetual antimicrobial. What happens with many of us is that this bacterial relationship can become pathogenic, where the harmful outweighs the beneficial. This causes damage to you. Several things are required to build a robust microbiome, one rich in beneficial bacteria and diversity and variety, so it can be deeply protective .
Your gut is filled with trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi every time you eat. But are you supplying them with the right type of food?
In the past, scientists knew very little about the community of microbes that make up the gut microbiota, AKA your gut microbiome. In recent years, researchers have discovered that your diet is one of the easiest and most effective ways to shape and nurture these vast communities of microbes.
In addition to influencing an individual’s mental health and immune system, gut microbes also determine their risk of gaining weight and developing chronic diseases . It is even possible for gut bacteria to affect your mental state through their production of mood-altering neurotransmitters like dopamine, which affects pleasure, learning and motivation and serotonin. Moreover, recent studies have shown that the composition of your gut microbiome can even impact your sleep quality .
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If the wrong combination of microbes is present, however, your bloodstream can be flooded with chemicals that cause plaque to build inside your arteries . A person’s hormone levels, blood sugar levels, inflammation, and the risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes can be influenced by the hormones they produce.
Your gut microbiome seems to be shaped much more by what you eat, the environment you live in and how you live. It is surprising how little influence genes have, as studies show that even identical twins share just one-third of the same gut microbes.
How does your diet affect your microbiome?
Gut microbes are found to be more diverse when your diet is more diverse. According to studies, a diverse microbiome correlates with good health, while a low diversity correlates with weight gain, obesity, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic diseases .
According to Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London and founder of the British Gut Project, a crowdsourced effort to map thousands of individual microbiomes, eating a variety of fibre-rich plants and nutrient-dense foods is especially beneficial. Spector recommends increasing the variety of plant foods you eat every week, even if you already consume a lot of fruits and vegetables.
Using more herbs and spices is one way to achieve this. Rather than using one type of lettuce for your salad, try a variety of leafy greens. For a healthy microbiome, you should have a variety of fruits for breakfast, different types of vegetables in your stir fry, and nuts, seeds, beans and grains in your diet.
How do probiotics work in boosting gut microbiome?
It is not uncommon to find yoghurts or yoghurt drinks in supermarkets that contain probiotics. Gut bacteria are often referred to as ‘good’ bacteria or ‘healthy bacteria’.
In theory, probiotics boost the number and variety of beneficial bacteria in the colon, helping digestion and perhaps your general health. Probiotics are also naturally present in fermented vegetables such as kimchi, sauerkraut, miso and kefir (fermented milk). They have become go-to gut health foods in recent years.
How about prebiotics?
Prebiotics, on the other hand, are nondigestible foods that promote the development of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. As a result, the probiotics are able to thrive on the food they receive.
Some examples are artichokes, asparagus, bananas, garlic, honey, leeks, lentils, legumes, oats and onions. It is also possible to manufacture prebiotics artificially and use them as supplements for better gut health.
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Here’s our guide to the best gut-health foods. The following are some tasty and unusual foods that are also helpful for your insides :
Due to their probiotic properties, these are perfect for your gut bacteria – aside from being high in fibre, full of fatty acids and polyphenols. Munching on almonds when you’re hungry makes a great snack.
Among nature’s healthiest snacks, bananas are full of fibre on which good bacteria thrive. They also contain beneficial minerals.
As well as being a festive staple, they contain fibres that are beneficial to good bacteria and sulphur compounds that inhibit unhealthy bacteria like H. pylori. This delicious side dish is stir-fried with garlic and bacon.
Garlic’s antifungal and antibacterial properties can help maintain a healthy gut and balance yeast. You can use it to flavor savoury dishes. Using garlic as a fuel source allows the bacteria to function better, resulting in a healthier gut and a better quality of life.
Soybeans, barley and rice are fermented to make miso, which contains helpful bacteria and enzymes. In addition to being used in dips, dressings and soups, it can also be used as a marinade for tofu or salmon.
Japanese cooking relies heavily on it, and it is ideal for those who are lactose intolerant. Research indicates that bacteria may not reach the gut effectively. Despite this, regions where Miso is a staple fermented food source have better gut health and less bowel disease.
You need fibre to thrive in your gut, so eat as much fruit and vegetables as possible. Insoluble and soluble fibre in peas help keep your system balanced. Add peas to stir-fries, soups or salads.
The friendly bacteria in live yoghurt, also known as probiotics, are excellent sources of nutrition. For a tasty breakfast, look for sugar-free, full-fat versions.
Yoghurt drinks can have high numbers of bacteria that are good for the gut, far more than you would find in regular ones. Be mindful, though, as they can be high in sugar.
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