Often labelled as the “body’s forgotten organ”, there has been a growing awareness of the role that gut health has on our overall wellbeing. And it shouldn’t be too surprising! With a weight of about 1-2kg and with over 1,000 different species, it’s no wonder these gut microbes play a large role in our health.
Emerging studies have linked gut health not only to digestion and metabolism, but also to hormone regulation, vitamin and mineral production, heart health, immune function, skin conditions, as well as our mental health!
Speaking generally, the health of our gastrointestinal (GI) system is determined by the number and type of bacteria that reside in our GI tract. Ideally, there should be a balance between the beneficial and harmful bacteria. However, it is the imbalance that can result in gut disease.
Not only are the type and number of bacteria important to gut health, but the integrity of the gut lining is as well. Unwanted bacteria products (called “endotoxins”) can leak out through the gut wall, enter the blood stream and trigger an immune response. This can cause chronic inflammation, food sensitivities and a myriad of other symptoms both in the GI system, as well as throughout the whole body. You often notice the obvious signs that indicate this is happening, like bloating after meals, flatulence, and abdominal pain. But there are also a number of less obvious signs, like headache, fatigue and joint pain.
Yes, yes and yes!! Building the right foundation of healthy eating, which focuses on fresh organic fruit and vegetables, while avoiding processed and sugary foods, is my number one recommendation! Adopting the right eating patterns is the best way to nourish your gut for the long-term, and help you live a more energy-filled life!
As Hippocrates said all those years ago, “Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food”
Below are three of my top tips on the foods you should begin to incorporate into your diet. The key is to be consistent and ensure these dietary changes become a regular part of your routine.
Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria that are naturally created by the process of fermentation. They can be used to repopulate the colon with desirable bacteria, which is particularly useful after a course of antibiotics that can wipe out both beneficial and harmful bacteria in the gut. Examples of probiotic rich foods include sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, and yoghurt.
While probiotics often take the spotlight, the amazing benefits of prebiotics still remain under the radar. Prebiotics help to nourish the bacteria already present in the gut, creating an environment that will foster their growth.
Prebiotic fibre are the non-digestible parts of food that go through the small intestine and ferment when reaching the large colon. Foods high in prebiotic fibre include onions, garlic, dandelion greens, chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, oatmeal, asparagus, apple (with skin) and bananas.
Healthy fats, which contain Omega 3 & 6’s, are crucial to gut health. They assist in keeping the smooth muscle cells of the gut wall lubricated, as well as help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins that maintain the gut lining. Foods that are high in healthy fats include avocado, almonds, walnuts, eggs, hemp and flax seeds, as well as coconut and olive oil.
Glutamine is also great for healing the gut. Its anti-inflammatory properties protect the GI cells from any irritants lurking! It can be supplemented in the diet by eating raw cabbage, aloe vera, legumes and beans.