Gut health seems to be the wellness trend that we can’t get enough of. Our gut health guru Dr Megan Rossi says that boosting yours is the key to transforming your overall health and wellbeing.
So, what’s the best way to take care of your gut?
Professor Sina Dorudi, Consultant Colorectal Surgeon at the London Digestive Centre at The Princess Grace Hospital (part of HCA Healthcare UK) explains the connection between gut health and your diet, and the easy swaps you can be making today.
How do healthy gut bacteria affect overall wellbeing?
“In recent years, we have become increasingly aware of the role gut microbiota and their genetic material, known as the gut microbiome, play in maintaining our overall health and wellbeing.
“Maintaining the right balance of bacteria in the gut is said to positively impact on our digestion, affecting how well we absorb water and nutrients from food. It’s also thought to reduce inflammation and support the immune system.
“In addition, a stable gut bacterial population can help to improve brain function and decrease stress by signalling pathways to the brain.
“It also helps to regulate energy metabolism, manage blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and prevent weight gain.
“On the other hand, defective human gut microbiota are thought to contribute to a number of common disease processes, such as obesity, diabetes, liver disease, infectious and inflammatory bowel disease and even bowel cancer.”
What can affect gut bacteria and how can I improve my gut microbiome?
“The gut microbiome refers to the three million or so genes contained in the cells of the gut bacterial population. The composition of these genes is truly unique between each individual.
“The gut microbiome can respond to environmental stimuli and diet is an obvious target for intervention – “you are what you eat”. However, while we know that diet can modify both the quantity and composition of the gut bacterial population, the relationship between diet, the gut bacteria and host health is not straightforward.
“The gut microbiome and the way in which intervention can alleviate symptoms or prevent serious disease is an area of considerable ongoing global research.
“Nevertheless, there is plenty of evidence to indicate that the gut microbiome can be restored by the intake of probiotic organisms (which are live bacteria and yeasts, commonly in tablet form).
“However, this type of therapy needs to be personalised to the individual in order to optimise benefit.”
What are the best foods to eat for good digestive health?
“Our digestive system breaks food down into nutrients and energy that the body can use.
“To ensure good digestive health, following a healthy diet with a low frequency intake of red or processed meat and plenty of fruit and vegetables is a sound direction of travel.
“There are also certain foods, including those rich in fibre and probiotics, which can help to support good digestive health.
“Examples include yoghurt, apples, fennel, kombucha, miso, wholegrains, and dark green leafy vegetables.
“A diet rich in pre-biotic food, such as bananas, garlic, asparagus, artichokes, oats, and apples, can also help to restore gut bacteria, but any change is unlikely to be permanent.”
How do sugar and stress affect the gut microbiome?
“Eating a diet with high levels of sugar can decrease the number of good bacteria in the gut. This creates an imbalance and can lead to increased sugar cravings, which can damage your gut still further.
“In addition, eating large amounts of refined sugars may also increase inflammation in the body, and can be harmful to the diversity and function of gut bacteria.
“Exposure to stress is also thought to have a negative impact on the gut microbiome and health. This is because stress can affect which nutrients the intestines absorb, and weaken the intestinal barrier weaker, allowing gut bacteria to enter the body.”
Go with your gut
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