Off the back of Love Your Gut Week 2019, dietician Jo Travers shares her top tips for good gut health.
The gut has been found to do a lot more than just digest the food we eat. It contains 150 million nerve cells and is home to trillions of bacteria which play a vital role in providing essential nutrients, tuning the immune system and even altering the function of the brain and other distant parts of the body.
The health of our gut has an impact on not only our digestion but also inflammation, our immune system and can even affect our weight. However, with a little looking after, it will definitely look after you.
Your gut is home to a range of helpful bacteria that help train our immune system, digest food and even affect our genes. To keep them thriving, you need to feed them well. Fibre-based foods are perfect for this so eat plenty of plant foods like vegetables, beans and whole grains.
Stress – physical or psychological – triggers a train reaction in the body, including the production of the stress hormone cortisol, which can cause dysregulation of the communication pathways between the gut and the brain, known as the gut-brain axis. This can mean changes to blood flow and secretions in the gut, which can create better conditions for pathological bacteria and inhibit the growth of some helpful bacteria.
Traditional fermentation of foods like yoghurt and kimchi, grows lactic acid bacteria which colonise the gut when eaten and may have a positive effect on metabolism. Introducing bacteria to your gut through fermented foods can also support the bacteria that are already living there.
Antibiotics kills infection-causing bacteria but they also kill all the other bacteria in your body, including the beneficial ones in your gut. This can increase susceptibility to infections and decrease the diversity of bacteria in the gut which can lead to changes in gene expression and metabolism. While this is definitely a risk worth taking if you have a bacterial infections, it you are suffering from a virus like the common cold, the antibiotics won’t make you better and will kill your helpful bacteria.
For food to move through the digestion system and bowels, it needs to be lubricated well and this simply means drinking enough water. Aim for around 2 litres of water every day.
Prebiotics are fibres often found in plant foods that we can’t digest but the bacteria in our gut can. In fact, gut bacteria feed on prebiotics and digests them for us. Our gut health has been shown to benefit from this in several ways such as reducing inflammation in the gut, having a protective anti-cancer effect and influencing the absorption of nutrients.
This piece was written by Jo Travers on Love Your Gut. For more information visit www.loveyourgut.com.
For more healthy tips, take a look here.