Every system in the body is connected and at the centre of it all is a well functioning digestive system.
Intestinal disorders are one of the most common reasons for people visiting primary care physicians. What’s more, most people, including doctors, don’t recognise or know that digestive problems can wreak havoc throughout the entire body. This can lead to problems with allergies, arthritis, autoimmune disease, rashes, acne, chronic fatigue, mood disorders, autism, dementia, cancer, and more.
Researchers have discovered that a nervous system in your gut, known as the ‘second brain’, communicates with the brain in your head and plays a role in certain diseases and mental health issues. In other words, the wellness of both your body and your brain depend on your gut health.
What Are Gut Bacteria?
300 to 500 different kinds of bacteria containing nearly 2 million genes live inside your gut. Paired with other tiny organisms like viruses and fungi, they make up what is known as the microbiota, or the microbiome.
Like a fingerprint, each person’s microbiota is unique with every individual having a different mix. Your mix is determined partly by your mother’s microbiota, from the environment that you were exposed to at birth, and from your diet and lifestyle.
Having a healthy gut means more than simply being free from the annoyances of bloating or heartburn. It is the key to your health and connected to everything that happens in your body.
Here are some simple steps to support your gut health and improve your well-being:
1. Start by eating a nutritious diet high in fibre-rich foods
Fibre-rich foods fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are a good source of diverse microbiota. A ‘western’ diet high in fat and sugar and low in fibre can kill certain types of gut bacteria, making your microbiota less diverse.
2. Limit your use of antibiotics
Antibiotics can wipe out healthy bacteria along with problematic bacteria. Therefore, you should only take them when your doctor believes it is absolutely necessary.
3. Try a plant-based diet
Animal-based diets promote the growth of different types of intestinal bacteria than plant-based diets. A number of studies have shown that vegetarian diets may benefit the gut microbiota. This may be due to their higher fibre content.
4. Eat fermented foods regularly
Fermented foods contain good bacteria and promote healthy digestion. The microflora within foods such as kimchi, tempeh, and sauerkraut create a protective lining in the intestines while boosting our immune system. Aim to eat two or three tablespoons of fermented foods around meal times. This can be before, during, or right after eating your meal. The probiotics are digested with the rest of your food, so they can work their magic no matter when you consume them.
5. Exercise encourages the growth of a variety of gut bacteria
Having a more varied gut microbiota may promote better health and, in turn, reduce your risk of disease.
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