Hello there beautiful people, I hope you’re all doing well.
Happy Saturday a.k.a New-Blogpost-day! If you follow my stories and posts on social media, you know that this week has been all about gut health.
This is a relatively new area and there’s a lot of very interesting research being carried out on the topic of gut health and the effect of our microbiome on our general health together with it’s interaction with the rest of our organs and how these are effected by our gut.
The term MICROBIOME refers to the collection of bacteria and other micro-organisms living within and on the human body; we actually have more bacterial cells than human cells within (and on) our bodies!
Why is gut health important?
Gut health is really important for several reasons; too many to name in one blog post in fact. However, according to leading researchers, given what we know so far, the importance of gut health can be drilled down to three important factors:
- IMMUNE FUNCTION
- COMMUNICATION WITH OTHER ORGANS
- DIGESTION & ABSORPTION
Approx. 70% of our immune system, literally what keeps us alive and well, lives in our intestines. Therefore keeping our intestines and the micro-organisms that live within it happy is incredibly important.
Our gut has been dubbed our second brain. It is the only other ‘organ’ (the microbiome is often considered a newly discovered organ) that is in communication with all our other organs and it is the only organ, apart from our brain, that doesn’t need to be told what to do by the brain and provided it’s kept in a good healthy condition, can perform its’ many important functions without any help from any other part of the body.
Finally, as we all know, we get much of what we need to survive and thrive from our diet. If our microbiome is healthy, our digestion will be optimal as would be absorption. What this implies is that we are actually getting all the important nutrients found in our food. You can have the best diet in the world but if the bacteria in your intestines has been wiped out by say antibiotics for example, digestion and absorption will be less than optimal and we will not be getting the important nutrients we desperately need from our food.
How to improve Gut Health
Consume 30 different plant foods per week – not only will this ensure getting a sufficient amount of fibre within our diet, which is of utmost importance for gut health, it has also been found that variety is incredibly important too! Getting many different plant foods in our diets will ensure we feed our intestinal bacteria a rich and varied diet of their absolute fave foods which will keep them healthy, happy and allows them to multiply in turn keeping us healthy and happy!
Try fasting every once in a while – eating every three hours may be less than ideal for our microbiome. We don’t need to fast daily or do anything crazy, however consuming less foods on less active days or missing out on breakfast every once in a while will allow our intestines to recover from the constant ‘workload’ that is digesting our food.
Avoid artificial sweeteners – Artificial sweeteners founds in many so called diet foods / drinks and some sugar free foods tend to confuse the bacteria in our gut and can even kill some species which is of course less than ideal. Try avoiding diet drinks and sugar free gum for example; these both contain artificial sweeteners that are harmful for our intestinal bacteria.
Exercise and the gut
Regular exercise has been linked to a more diverse and resilient microbiome. There has been a lot of evidence showing that yoga in particular is helpful for those with intestinal issues such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and other intestinal problems that may stem from stress. Having said this, if yoga is not your thing, ANY form of exercise is actually beneficial for our intestinal health so whatever gets you moving and makes you feel good, be it a yoga session, weight training or dance class, will be of benefit for your gut!
The importance of fibre
The importance of fibre for gut health, and general health, cannot be overstated. Even though many of us don’t get nearly enough fibre in our diets, it’s thought that there is no upper limit for the benefits gained from the increase of fibre within our diets – basically, the more we can get, the better! Fibre is found in plant foods, so that’s: grains, beans, legumes, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. If you’d like to learn more about fibre, here’s a blog post all about the topic Why do we need FIBRE?
Prebiotics, Probiotics and Fermented Foods
PREbiotics are a form of dietary fibre that come from foods that in turn feed the bacteria within our intestines. These include garlic, onions, bananas, asparagus, leeks, oats, apples, barley and many more.
PRObiotics are the actual live bacteria. These are found naturally in many fermented foods and can also be consumed in supplement form. Naturally fermented foods that contain probiotics include kefir, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, some naturally fermented yoghurts and cheeses, tempeh, kombucha and pickles to name a few.
There is no real consensus on which type of probiotic supplement is best nor if we actually ‘need’ to take them except in instances when antibiotics are needed. If you have to take antibiotics for whatever reason, do make sure to ask your pharmacist for probiotics that will counter the damage done by the antibiotics wiping out both harmful and helpful bacteria. Of course this is not to say that antibiotics are bad necessarily. They tend to be overused sadly, which is an issue, however they are also very important to eradicate life threatening diseases.
Introducing fermented foods into your diet is a really easy way to introduce probiotics that may prove to be very tasty too!
Gut health and Mental health
Finally, gut health has been closely linked to mental health issues (or the lack thereof). These are a phenomenon know as the gut-brain axis. This explains the link between the health of our intestines and our mental health. There is increasing evidence showing that inflammation of the gut is linked to anxiety and depression. There have even been several large and conclusive studies that have shown diet treatment (rich in fibre, pre and probiotics etc) to be as effective as anti-depressant medication on people with mild to moderate depression.
That’s it from me for today – I’ll be back with a new blog post Every Single Saturday 🙂
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Thank you for taking the time to be here and read this ❤️ Until next week, be well xXx