The gastrointestinal tract is a complex and vital part of the body that people often underestimate. It is responsible for transporting food from our mouth to our stomach, converts it into absorbable nutrients and stored energy, and helps our bodies remove waste back out of the body. If you don’t properly nourish yourself, you don’t survive. It’s that simple.
By Mariza Halliday
In recent years, scientists have done various studies and discovered that gut health has an even bigger function than we previously thought. It has been linked to many other aspects of health, some that have seemingly nothing to do with digestion – from immunity to anxiety, cancer, Type 2 diabetes and more. We have only just begun to scratch the surface of the importance of gut health, but studies have already found that certain environments, foods and behaviours can influence it for better or worse.
According to Emma de Beer, Marketing Manager at Ascendis Pharma, we often associated gut health with regular toilet visits and a lack of or diarrhoea or bloating. But gut health is so much more than that. Your gut is like a security system for your body – keeping the bad elements out and allowing the good in. A healthy gut can control more than just bowel movements and can impact our mood, health and overall well-being.
Discomfort in the gut can be an early warning sign when something is out of order in your body or even your surroundings. That is why people talk about a” gut feeling “or tell you to “always trust your gut”, she says. If your gut is the security, the good bacteria is the maintenance team.
They prevent bad bacteria from entering your body and blood.
HEALTH CONDITIONS LINKED TO THE GUT MICROBIOME
• Alzheimer’s disease
• Autoimmune disease
• Hashimotos thyroiditis
• Heart disease
• Inflammatory bowel diseases,
including Crohn’s disease
• Parkinson’s disease
Bacteria is found all over your body (gut, skin, ears, nose etc). In fact, scientists believe that there are more microbes than cells in your body.
Your gastrointestinal tract is lined with microbes collectively called the microbiome, which includes bacteria, fungi and even viruses. The importance doesn’t only lie in how much, but also what sort. The human microbiome differs from person to person and is almost as unique as a fingerprint. But some species are the most prolific and the ones that we see declining in humans as our hygiene habits improve and our food becomes more processed.
Today, most of us have a microbiome seriously lacking in diversity because we only feed the “bad” bacteria as we follow a diet of unhealthy fats and refined carbohydrates. A lack of gut diversity is an important marker of inflammation, which is linked to obesity, heart disease, arthritis and even depression. It also leads to more fat storage and poor insulin sensitivity.
“If you want to fix your health, start with your gut. Gut health literally affects your entire body.” – Dr Mark Hyman
HOW TO DIVERSIFY YOUR HEALTH GUT BACTERIA
1. Eat More Fibre
2. Diversify your Diet
3. Go for the Polyphenols
Aim for 40g or more per day.
Variety in your diet may be as important as the quantities, as the chemicals and types of fibre will vary, and each supports different microbial species.
Polyphenols are antioxidants that act as fuel for microbes. These are found in red wine, green tea, blueberries, pomegranates, cherries and dark chocolate.
4. Eat Fermented Foods
5. Be Mindful about Antibiotics
6. Throw away Artificial Sweetner & Processed Foods
Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha and kimchi all contain good bacteria that can help fight against and crowd out the bad bacteria in your gut, resulting in a healthy balance of bacteria in the intestines. Aim for one to two servings of fermented food every day.
Antibiotics destroy the good and the bad bacteria in your gut and it can take weeks to recover, so don’t take them unless you need them.
Sugar and artificial sweeteners feed the bad bacteria and can cause gastrointestinal distress in the forms of gas, bloating and diarrhoea.