Gut health is a hot topic and for good reason. New research continues to uncover a wide range of health benefits linked with having a well balanced and diverse group of bacteria living in our gut, or in other words a healthy microbiota.
So just what is the microbiota? Basically, it is all the microbes living inside our digestive system. We have a massive 100 trillion of them living within our system and they have a huge influence on our health. We must be good to them and make them work for us rather than against us as poor gut health is linked to diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disorders, arthritis, depression, high cholesterol and poor immune health.
Our gut is now thought of as our second brain, proving just how important our digestive system is to wellbeing and health. But perhaps we have been thinking about it in the wrong way. It now seems the important factor in achieving gut health is bacterial diversity and balance rather than focussing on good vs bad bacteria.
The key to achieving a well balanced and diverse microbiota is dietary fibre. The dietary recommendation for fibre is 25g for women and 30g for men but unfortunately, many of us are falling short of this amount. Fibre can be classified into 3 groups, soluble fibre, insoluble fibre and resistant starch.
Soluble fibre is found in foods such as legumes, fruit and veggie flesh, oats and barley, providing some prebiotics to our digestive system. Insoluble fibre can be found in foods such as wholemeal breads, wholegrain cereals and brown rice. Resistant starch also provides our bodies with prebiotics and can be found in unripe bananas, in legumes such as lentils and in cooked and cooled rice, potatoes, pasta and whole grains like freekeh.
Probiotic foods are also thought to help improve the balance of bacteria when eaten in adequate amounts. Foods that fit into this category include yoghurt and fermented foods like tempeh, kombucha and sauerkraut and kefir. A probiotic supplement may also be beneficial but there are many gaps in what we know on how they will directly affect the gut microbiota.
My top tips for a healthy gut:
- Eat a healthy well balanced and varied diet
- Have a dietary focus on whole foods and limit processed foods
- Eat a diet high in fibre
- Include some prebiotic and probiotic foods
Check out my eBook for recipes high in fibre, that include prebiotics and probiotics to help boost gut health.