What's all the fuss around gut health? The gut microbiome refers to the billions of live (and different strains of) bacteria that we hold in our gut and it's the place where we absorb, where we digest and metabolise to provide our body with energy. An unhealthy gut can lead to inflammation, a variety of disorders, weight gain, generate an immune response, lack of attention and even an unbalanced mood; our gut really is our second brain.
So what's affecting our gut?
· Your diet - what you eat
· Genetics – some of your microbiom is inherited
· Environmental factors - toxins in toxins – in our air, our water our cleaning and personal care products
So, do I have a healthy gut?
The typical Western diet, focussed on refined carbohydrates such as pasta, pizza, bread, biscuits, pastry (to name a few) is not supportive of a healthy microbiome function as refined carbohydrates do not hold the minerals and vitamins we need for our gut to thrive.
Life in the pre-globalised world was traditionally better for our gut health with different cultures boasting foods which naturally had pro and prebiotic food as part of their diet, for example:
India: fermented milks and pickles
Africa: vinegar, olive oil seeds
Middle east: Olives and wine (fermented)
Europe: yeast, sauerkraut, fermented dairy, wine
Some of these foods are now in the general Western diet, but often missing from the daily/weekly/ or monthly consumption for some. Even when you think, "I eat pickles", or "sauerkraut", there is a distinction between naturally fermented food and sugar laden alternatives that we’ve been exposed to. Another example that you may be able to relate to is the flavoured yoghurt in supermarket which stemmed from the fermentation process, but has been filled with sugar or artificial sweeteners which we're then told is 'healthy'.
So, how can you support your gut?
Probiotics and prebiotics are a hot product at health stores at the moment, with a range of products and supplements that you can purchase in order to support your gut. However, nothing beats incorporating naturally occurring sources into your diet. Below we've listed some more traditional food items that you can add into your weekly food shop:
Probiotics contain live microbes (part of microbial/gut make up!)
Examples of foods with probiotics include:
· Fermented vegetables
· Homemade beer and wine
The benefits of adding probiotics to your diet include:
· Increase feelings of happiness
· Reduce cortisol (stress hormone)
· Reduce anxiety
· Support healthy aging
Prebiotis are the fibre source that ferments in the gut. It’s good for regular digestion and contains fatty acids that can be absorbed to support your metabolism. Prebiotics are the fuel to support probiotics in the gut.
Prebiotic sources include:
· Jerrusalem artichokes
· Chicory root
· Green tea
In our Take Me to Work Box, you’ll find a prebiotic Oatie! a great example of supporting your gut health through a 3pm snack! The source of the prebiotic is from inulin chicory roots.
Benefits of probiotics include:
· Reduce risk of being overweight
· Increase immunity
· Help with absorption of calcium
· Support satiety (feeling of being full)
If you're looking at this food list and thinking, I have some of those foods in my weekly diet - GO YOU! Could we dare you to try something different next week and up the anti on your pro AND prebiotics?