FEED YOUR GUT; FEED YOUR HEALTH!
We have billions of bacteria in our large intestine. Science is now showing they are fundamental in our health and wellbeing.
But GOOD NEWS! We can alter them with the food we choose!
The first bacteria to colonise our gut come from our mothers during natural birth. Once colonised, a type of carbohydrate in breast milk, oligosaccharide, promotes their multiplication in our gut.
WHAT DO OUR GUT BACTERIA DO?
They digest the fibre we eat, by fermentation (a type of carbohydrate which can’t be digested like other carbohydrates in the small intestine), to produce short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) for energy. These and other bacterial products have many health benefits as follows…
Cholesterol – proprionate, a type of SCFA produced by our gut bacteria, reduces cholesterol absorption.
Food allergy and other autoimmune conditions – gut bacteria promote proteins which maintain the barrier function of the gut, therefore help to limit the absorption of potential allergens.
Anti-inlammatory – butyrate, another type of SCFA, has anti-inflammatory properties, reducing the risk of bowel disease.
Our gut bacteria have many other health benefits too including weight control, enhanced performance in sport and are also a rich source of anti-oxidants.
It’s important to have as varied a population of bacteria as possible (This tends to decrease in older age as diet becomes less varied). Looking after our gut bacteria is especially important after illness when longer-term antibiotics may have reduced them greatly. The best researched to-date, are Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, the latter being especially important in patients with inflammatory bowel disease, or IBS. (look out for them in live yoghurt cultures) Follow these simple steps to boost your bacteria every day!
As our gut bacteria feed off the fibre in our diet, eating a fibre-rich diet full of unprocessed carbohydrates is key – fruit and vegetables, pulses, beans, wholegrains, nuts and seeds. You can read more about fibre here.
Just half an hour’s heart-pumping exercise, such as brisk walking, five times weekly is the current recommended amount in adults to promote your future health and also promotes your gut bacteria.
A good way to boost your gut bacteria if required, especially after illness. The science around these bacteria cultures and their health benefits is convincing. Some are more effective than others at surviving the acid enironment in the stomach and arriving in the large intestine alive and able to multipy. Always choose a liquid based one and take on it’s own before breakfast.
Take 3 cups of oats and soak with 3 cups of water (you can use coconut water if you have for added sweetness). Add 3 tbsps live yogurt (or Kefir). Give it all a good stir and leave out of the fridge overnight for the bacteria to start fermenting the oats. This process allows the good bacteria to proliferate and enhances the absorption of minerals like iron, calcium and zinc as the soaking breaks down phytates in the grain. In the morning either heat up with milk and enjoy as porridge or simply stir in more yogurt and top with fruit and seeds. The Vutamin C in the fruit also ensures good iron absorption.
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Dr Lucy Williamson Msc
I am a freelance registered Nutritionist working in greater London, to inform and inspire better health for all, through Nutrition. I would be delighted to hear from you! You can contact me here.