Getting to grips with the gut
Gut health is the latest trend taking the internet by storm that might finally be the holistic answer to several health concerns, from a lack of energy to bad skin and mental health. Yep – you heard that right.
Scientists, nutritionists, and medical practitioners dating as far back as the 18th century have been concerned with gut microflora (the ecosystem of bacteria inside our guts) and its role in our health.
The latest gut-health science has found that the implications of a happy gut are more significant than first thought; James Kinross, a microbiome scientist and surgeon at Imperial College London coined it “the most important scientific discovery for human healthcare in recent decades”. Pretty serious stuff.
Here are just some of the health concerns that gut-health has been directly linked to:
Metabolic problems: obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cancers
Respiratory problems: asthma, lung cancer
Brain function: autism, anxiety, and depression
Cardiovascular problems: heart failure, atherosclerosis, and thrombosis
Skin problems: psoriasis, acne vulgaris, skin cancer
As well as several immune health, hormonal health, and overall health issues.
So, how exactly do we positively take control of our gut health?
The best way to keep your gut happy and healthy is of course through diet.
If you think about your gut as a city, and the ‘good’ bacteria inside it as inhabitants. You want to do what you can to keep the people happy so that when you have a problem, there are lots (trillions) of people on call to try to help fix it!
Just like people, not all bacteria like the same foods, so you need to eat a variety of foods to keep them all happy and healthy. This is otherwise known as ‘repopulating the gut’ or ‘gut healing’.
The easiest way to understand this in terms of food is by understanding the role of both probiotics and prebiotics.
Probiotics increase the number of healthy bacteria in the gut and encourage a more diverse ecosystem.
Probiotic rich foods include:
In order for the bacteria to thrive, they have to be nourished with prebiotics, otherwise known as fibre. The key here is variation – try to fit as many colours of the rainbow and a vast array of different fruits and veggies into your meals every week.
Some good prebiotic foods: