By Sue Bedford (MSc Nut Th)
All health starts with the gut! If nutrients cannot be digested and/or absorbed from our food correctly then this will impact on all body organs and systems in some way.
It is important to ensure that the gut is full of healthy microbes which are balanced, as these form an ecosystem that work closely together forming many interconnections. This finely tuned ecosystem is important for a healthy body and mind as it is involved in the effective absorption of vital nutrients, enhancing the immune system and helping to reduce inflammation in the body (important for fertility and also in the prevention of chronic diseases), turning off genes, turning on enzymes, helping in the reduction of anxiety and depression and the ageing process (to name a few).
Stress, consuming inflammatory food, antibiotics, some medications and being born by caesarian section can reduce the levels of ‘good’ bacteria which may then lead to an imbalance in the microorganisms present in the gut (microbiome) – this is known as Dysbiosis.
How can healthy gut bacteria be improved?
Consume a good variety of prebiotic foods as these will help to support probiotic bacteria.
Consume some fermented foods such as sauerkraut or kefir to support gut flora.
Consume foods containing probiotic bacteria.
Consider taking a probiotic supplement
What are prebiotics and probiotics?
Prebiotics are important in our gut as they help the growth of good bacteria (Probiotics). They come mostly from carbohydrate fibres called Oligosaccharides. As these fibres are not digested, they remain in the digestive tract and encourage the good bacteria to grow.
Prebiotics are naturally found in fruit, vegetables and wholegrains. Good sources are garlic, onions, leeks and bananas.
Probiotics are useful live bacteria such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillis which assist in maintaining balance in the digestive system and help to keep it healthy. A helpful yeast is Saccharomyces boulardii which is often found in probiotic supplements.
Probiotic sources are: yoghurt containing live bacteria culture, cheese that is not baked, sauerkraut, miso and fermented milk. Some foods also have probiotics added to them.