The gut microbiota has a big impact on our overall health and caring for our intestinal flora (microbes) is essential to our well-being. This is because an imbalance in the intestinal microbiota can lead to health problems such as diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome and even cancer, among other bowel disorders.
A healthy microbiota acts as a barrier against microorganisms that can cause diseases, acts directly on the functioning of the immune system, digestive system, metabolizes nutrients, controls the storage of fats, our metabolism, how hungry we feel and how well we sleep at night, among other functions.
Digestive system problems are common and can cause symptoms such as gas, heartburn, bloating and constipation. One of the important ways to promote digestive gut health is eating the right food to feed your microbiota. Over a trillion micro-organisms (bacteria’s and fungi) exist in the human gastrointestinal tract.
We often associate the word bacteria with infection, but did you know the majority of bacteria in our gut are actually beneficial for us? The balance of our bacteria, and the diversity of it, can give us an understanding of how well our gut is functioning. In fact, the more diverse the bacteria, the more likely we are to have a healthy gut.
Even more interestingly, scientists are starting to uncover the impact that poor gut health can have on our physical and mental health, including anxiety and depression, and there is also research investigating our risk of becoming obese as a result of poor gut health.
Experts believe that some foods may influence our gut microbiota more than others. Individuals who have a diet higher in fibre and plant-based foods, with less processed foods and refined carbohydrates, are more likely to have ‘good’ gut bacteria. Additionally, adding live cultures and fermented probiotic foods into the diet could help restore the ‘good’ bacteria including Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus.
Fermented probiotic foods we can eat to support gut microbiota include:
- Yoghurt with live active cultures
- Pickled vegetables
- Kombucha tea
- Fibre from fruit and vegetables, oats, onions, and garlic
The overall consensus is eating a balanced diet full of a variety of plant-based foods is the best way to nourish our gut and you may also find foods with live cultures are a helpful addition to your diet. Whilst there is no one-size-fits-all ‘healthy gut diet plan,’ our nutritionist can help you look after your digestive system by tailoring the right daily diet to you.