Our digestive tract contains trillions of bacteria - both good and bad - which in turn impacts our health. A healthy gut helps keep chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer at bay, and also can reduce inflammation, keep your brain healthy and help you maintain a healthy weight.
What you eat directly influences the makeup of bacteria in your gut, also known as the microbiome. In the gut microbiome, the "good" bacteria do more than just help with digestion. They help keep your "bad" bacteria in check. They multiply so often that the unhealthy kind don't have space to grow.
Some bacteria fight inflammation, while others promote it. When the gut works as it should, these two types keep each other in check. But when that delicate balance gets affected, inflammatory bacteria can take over - and they can produce metabolites that pass through the lining of the gut and into the bloodstream, spreading the inflammation to other parts of the body.
Why is gut health important?
Studies in both animals and humans have linked some bacteria to lower immune function, greater risk of asthma and allergies,and to chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and some cancers.
Gut health has even been linked to anxiety and depression, and to neurological conditions like schizophrenia and dementia. The makeup of gut bacteria also varies between lean and overweight people, suggesting that it may play a role in causing obesity in the first place.
When your gut is thrown out of balance, it's normally easy to tell. You will experience symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhoea, stomach pain or nausea. These imbalances often fix themselves after a short time but, if they become chronic issues, they might require medical attention.
How to improve gut health
Similarly, the same habits that are bad for your heart, lungs and brain - like cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol intake - can also hurt the microbiome.
Limiting dairy, red and processed meats and refined sugars can also improve gut health, and so is getting the recommended amount of fibre - 20g to 40g a day, depending on your age and gender.
The easiest way to do that is by increasing probiotic and prebiotic intake, also consuming more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds to your diet.
Nutrients and good eating habits aside, stress and fatigue also contribute to your gut's health. So keeping that in check, together with getting enough sleep and staying hydrated all factor in towards improving the health of your gut.
Best foods for your gut
It's never too late to change your diet to support better bacteria in your gut. Here are our suggestions of some foods that you can turn to in order to improve your gut health:
- Yogurt - Good old-fashioned yogurt is teeming with probiotics - as long as you choose a variety that contains live and active cultures (such as lactobacillus bulgaricus). And good news - the bacteria in yogurt comes with less lactose content than other milk products, so even if you're lactose intolerant, you may be able to eat it without issue.
- Fermented vegetables - Believe it or not, kimchi, as well as fermented veggies and fruits, including pickles and olives, are a great source of probiotics and can easily be added to salads, sandwiches, or wraps, or enjoyed on their own.
- Legumes - Legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and white beans can provide half your daily fibre requirements. Research also indicates that the more frequently you consume legumes, the less likely you'll experience gas or bloating afterward.
- Chia and flax seeds - These are excellent sources of fibre and have many added nutritional benefits besides being good for your gut. Flaxseeds have been shown to reduce inflammation in the gut and improve glucose tolerance. Both flaxseeds and chia seeds are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation in the joints. Get your Chia HERE
- High fibre fruits - Fruits in general have a high fibre content and are often the easiest in include in your diet, along with green leafy vegetables. To improve your gut health, consume more fruits such as oranges, apples, bananas, mangos, guavas and dates. Dates also contain as much as 7g of fibre within a 3.5 ounce serving.
Ideally, we don't have to know exactly what's going on in your gut all the time. However, as long as you're following doctors' orders for overall health, you're likely benefiting your microbiome.
They say, a healthier gut is the key to a healthier life and longevity. So let's continue to eat well and stay healthy, only with AllKurma.