We’re becoming more and more aware that the health of our digestive systems affects our overall health. It’s not just the nutrients we get from a healthy diet that contributes to a healthy body, but the health of the good bacteria, or gut microbes, in our digestive tracts. However, a healthy diet keeps gut microbes happy too, so it’s a win-win situation.
The good, the bad and the bacteria
There are about 300 to 500 different species of bacteria in your digestive tract. The good gut microbes don’t only help you to digest food. They multiply often so that bad bacteria doesn’t have space to grow, contributing to your health overall. The health of your gut microbes has been linked to your immune system, mental health, mood, skin conditions, obesity, endocrine disorders, autoimmune diseases and cancer.
Tips for a healthy gut
It all boils down to…eating healthy! This is probably obvious, but once you realise that your gut microbes help with digestion, breaking down food so your body can absorb the nutrients needed to function properly, you’ll understand why eating high-sugar and processed foods is not the best idea. Plus, these unhealthy foods can decrease your amount of gut microbes, causing increased sugar cravings. Sugar has been linked to inflammation, which can be a precursor to various diseases, including cancer. The circle is a vicious one.
But what can you eat that is particularly good for your gut microbes and what else should you avoid besides sugar and processed foods?
Good for gut microbes
Probiotics help gut microbes to grow. Your doctor may have prescribed a probiotic supplement alongside your antibiotic to replace the good bacteria in your gut that the antibiotic destroys. But probiotics can also be found in food such as yoghurt, aged cheeses, fermented and pickled vegetables. Probiotics help to keep your intestinal bacteria balanced, make your immune system stronger, ease allergy symptoms, and help with lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Prebiotics help probiotics to promote the growth of good gut bacteria. They also help your body to absorb calcium. You can find prebiotics in bananas, whole wheat, soybeans, onions, garlic, leeks, artichokes and asparagus.
A synbiotic is a combination of a probiotic and a prebiotic. Synbiotics help probiotics to live longer. You could combine whole wheat bread and aged cheese, or bananas and yoghurt for a healthy-gut snack.
Bad for gut microbes
When you eat eggs and red meat, some types of gut microbes make a chemical that your liver turns into trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), which may lead to cholesterol build up. Too much TMAO be also be a possible cause of heart and chronic kidney disease.
A substance found in olive and grapeseed oil may prevent gut microbes from producing the chemical, but research is still underway.
The next step to good gut health
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to gut health. Each of our gut microbiomes (where gut microbes live) are unique, so they can work differently for everyone.
For a healthy diet for your unique needs, complete your Health Risk Assessment at one of our network pharmacies to unlock your Tempo wellness programme benefit of 3 consultations with a dietician per member/dependant 18 years and older.