Recently, cultivating a happy gut, or the amount of ‘healthy’ microbiome we have in our bodies, has really come into the spotlight – but why is gut health so important in the first place?
What is gut microbiome?
The body is full of trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi which are collectively known as the microbiome. Most of the microbes in your intestines are found in a "pocket" of your large intestine called the cecum, and they are what is referred to as the gut microbiome. While some bacteria are associated with disease, others are actually extremely important for promoting a healthy immune system and many other aspects of wellbeing.
How does gut health affect your body?
Humans have evolved to live with microbes for millions of years and there are many reasons why a healthy gut is essential to living a happy and healthy lifestyle. The importance of gut health for overall wellbeing can be researched across many studies nowadays, proving it’s necessity.
A study published in 2017 showed that the microbiome in the gut plays a critical role in wellbeing – not only can it help promote benefits when dealing with bloating, mental and emotional health, digestion and even weight loss, it can prevent more serious health issues and disease from developing (1). Gut microbiome can affect your weight, your heart, your brain and blood sugar levels to name a few.
So if creating a happy gut is so essential to living to your optimal level, what can be done in your day to day to help improve your overall health?
How to improve gut health
1. Build a strong foundation with prebiotic fiber
Simply, the foundation of a healthy and happy gut is your prebiotic nutrients. Stomach flora feeds on what's known as insoluble fiber, or fiber that we can't absorb for ourselves – which means that we have to eat things that we can't digest to feed little organisms that live inside of us. But no need to worry – there are many natural foods that have insoluble fiber (so you don’t have to imagine chewing on some foreign or weird object!). Some of the best sources are in vegetables like, artichokes, garlic and chicory root. If you prefer a flavour-free easy option, you can also opt for powdered prebiotic supplements. Just make sure you do your research to find a clean and reputable brand you trust or have been recommended by a Nutritionist, for example.
It also helps to create a habit when it comes to prebiotic fiber as the microorganisms in your gut will be at their best with a steady stream of nutrients to feed on. According to research, an ideal amount is between 25 and 40 grams per day (2).
2. Look into the help of probiotic supplements
If you're experiencing digestive issues, seek the help of a physician or nutritionist to rule out any serious issues, however if your case can be solved with home remedies and natural solutions, they may advise you to supplement with probiotics. They will be able to guide you and recommend specific brands and tailor your journey to your individual needs. Do your research and come prepared with questions, or go online and read all the reviews regarding brands that stand out to you and your case.
3. Fermented foods are your friends
Fermented foods are a great way to improve gut health naturally as they often come with both the bacteria you want as well as some food source for them to feed on. Think about the flora in the gut like the grass in a yard – without proper maintenance the grass gets patchy, weeds take root, etc. Similarly, we can develop things like leaky gut or leaky gut syndrome which is basically patchy gut flora. We can also develop candida overgrowth, which would be akin to weeds. Therefore, a steady stream of fermented foods moving through the intestines is necessary to maintaining a happy tummy. Try adding foods like pickles, kefir, kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut into your diet to help you on your way.
4. Avoid sugar as much as you can
Sugar is a real enemy when it comes to trying to develop a healthy digestive system. It feeds unhealthy bacteria, can cause inflammation, and is also associated with more serious health issues like diabetes and high blood cholesterol, so try and avoid sugar cravings as much as possible in your day to day life.
Now, small amounts of added sugars are not necessarily harmful, especially when included in a healthy diet of fruits, veggies, healthy fats and so on, however it’s important to be aware of what we consume. Today, many ‘healthy’ products in supermarkets claim to be low fat, fat free, gluten free, but many are laden with added sugar that spike your daily allowance. Do your research when it comes to your go-to snacks and make sure that you’re making smart choices in order to boost your gut health.
Who knew it was necessary to not only take care of yourself, but also trillions of little organisms that live inside of you? Luckily, now you do! So go on and nourish that gut flora.