Stu: With all the years we’ve been working in the health and wellness space, there’s one thing that stands out time and time again. Yes, I believe one of the cornerstones of great health is the integrity of the your gut. Not the most glamorous answer I know, but one you seriously don’t want to overlook. Some estimates say that bacteria in our gut outnumber our own human cells 10:1 in our body!
Whether you want to lose weight, recover faster from exercise, increase energy, elevate mood etc, then gut health is worth delving into and applying these simple strategies below.
Welcome to the world of ‘microbiome’. Over to Naturopath and Nutritionist Lynda Griparic…
Lynda: What is the gut “microbiome” you ask? Put simply its the trillions of microscopic bacteria that live within your gastrointestinal tract.
Why is it so important to nourish and have a wide variety of gut microbiome? There are many reasons. I have touched on some of these below:
- A healthy, diverse microbiome protects you from harmful bacteria, fungus and viruses.
- 90% of our the body’s serotonin is made in the gut. Serotonin is affected by the health of your microbiome and is responsible for a healthy mood, sense of calm, optimism, sleep and appetite.
- Gut bacteria produce and respond to other chemicals that the brain uses which regulate sleep, stress and relaxation such as melatonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, acetylcholine and GABA.
- They produce short chain fatty acids (SCFA’s) which promote weight loss, ward off inflammation, protect against colon cancer and are crucial for overall good intestinal health.
- They improve the strength and health of your intestinal walls, prevent leaky gut and reduce inflammation by maintaining the tight junctions between the cells in the lining of these walls.
- A balanced gut microbiome helps avoid unhealthy weight gain.
- Helps to break down toxins and improve the absorption of nutrients from the food you eat.
- Helps prevent or reduce nasty symptoms of autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and lupus.
The following are my top 5 gut loving foods. Those that can be easily added to your daily diet…
Don’t be put off by the fancy word. Simply put, polyphenols are compounds found mostly in colourful fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, nuts, seeds, red wine, green and black tea. Polyphenols ensure that the balance of your gut microbiome is maintained. They reduce inflammation and improve overall metabolism, especially of sugar (glucose) and fats (lipids). This enhances the quality of your health and prevents disease.
Polyphenols contain antibiotic properties and each polyphenol acts as its own prebiotic, promoting growth of healthy gut bacteria. When the cell of a bacteria breaks down it releases a toxin. Polyphenols communicate with your microbiome, reducing the growth of these toxin containing bacteria.
You can find polyphenols in the following foods and beverages:
- Fruits: berries, apples, cherries, peach, apricot, pomegranate
- Vegetables: red onion, spinach, broccoli, globe artichoke, cabbage, celery
- Herbs and spices: Cloves, ginger, thyme, rosemary, cinnamon, chilli, peppermint, cumin
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, flaxseeds
- Beverages: cocoa, green, black, white tea, red wine
- Olive oil and olives
Prebiotics are generally the non digestible, plant fibres found in food. They are the foods that feed and nourish the friendly bacteria already present in your gut.
Inulin is the main prebiotic compound found in foods such as asparagus, onions, garlic, and artichokes. Other forms of prebiotics are fructo-oligosaccharides, galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), xylo-oligosaccharides (XOS) and arabinogalactans.
Inulin and GOS have much positive research behind it and are shown to prevent bacterial imbalances in the gut, leaky gut, obesity and its complications.
Foods rich in prebiotic fibre are asparagus, leeks, onions, radishes, tomatoes, garlic, artichoke, carrots, kiwi fruit.
Resistant starch is a form of natural prebiotic that is digested by our good bacteria many hours after eating. As the name states this form of starch is resistant to digestion in the stomach and small intestine. It instead reaches the large intestine intact and goes on to feed our good bacteria. RS contain mostly unusable calories and create little or no insulin or blood glucose spikes.
Good RS sources are boiled potatoes and brown rice, that have been cooled down, cannellini beans, black beans that have been cooled down, green (unripe) bananas and plantains. I like to add 1 tsp of organic green banana flour (I use the brand Absolute Organic which is easy to find) to my smoothies or I recommend that people have 2 tbsp of an RS source for lunch or dinner to cultivate a healthy, well balanced microbiome.
3. Probiotic rich foods
Probiotics are the living bacteria that restore and renew our microbiome. They reduce inflammation in the intestines, improve the quality of the gut and reduce absorption of toxins.
Poor bacterial balance in your gut microbiome can lead to inflammation and can affect your body composition and metabolism in various ways. Any imbalance weakens your gut barrier and leads to an increase in inflammation. Weight control and blood sugar regulation is dependent on a good balance of gut microflora.
Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchee, fermented vegetables, yoghurt and kefir are natural probiotics. They contain their own living cultures of bacteria, which nourish the healthy bacteria in your microbiome. Kombucha can also be of benefit too, learn more about the Beginners Guide to Making Kombucha here.
4. Healthy fats
Your cell walls are made up of fat so in order to do their jobs they need healthy fats such as nuts, nut butters (almond, cashew, macadamia), seeds, seed butters, avocado, oily fish, flaxseeds and olive oil.
Having healthy cells ensures that you are the best version of your inherited genes because whatever enters your cells affects your DNA. Unhealthy fats such as vegetable oils feed the harmful bacteria, the microbes that ignite inflammation, encourage your body to store fat and produce toxins.
Omega 3s, particularly from oily fish reduce gut inflammation and repair the mucosal cells of the digestive system. Gut mucosal cells are damaged easily because they regenerate very quickly- within a 24 hour cycle. They need a constant flow of good nutrition to support their rapid turnover and prevent damage.
If you are worried about eating more fat we’d recommending this expert interview.
5. Apple cider vinegar
Your microbiome and stomach acid stimulate your small intestine to produce the enzymes needed to break down nutrients from the food you eat. If you have an unbalanced or unhealthy microbiome or low stomach acid this important signal is not given and digestion is compromised. You will absorb less fabulous nutrients from your food and if leaky gut is present, undigested food may pass through the intestinal wall causing inflammation.
A simple way to improve your stomach acid is to use Apple Cider Vinegar. I dilute 1 tbsp of this household favourite, in water before most meals and use it as my staple vinegar whenever vinegar is called for in a recipe. Salads, slow cooking, sauces.
You can learn more about the benefits of apple cider vinegar here.
In a Nutshell
There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that poor food choices such as too many processed carbohydrates and unhealthy fats cause disruption in your gut microbiome. So opt for fibrous foods rich in colour, packed full of the ammunition your gut flora needs to ensure you flourish.
A simple option if you are low on time or stuck for choices would be to replace a poor meal choice, like toast and cereal etc with a high fibre gut nourishing smoothie. This smoothie contains green banana flour, a resistant starch that nourishes the gut flora and coriander seeds to help break down foods well and reduce any common digestive complaints such as flatulence and wind.
You may also enjoy the gut-nourishing recipes below:
Your gut has the power, it just needs the right environment and your help. Feed it well, save yourself a lot of money by avoiding illness and medications and use your hard earned cash on a holiday instead 🙂
Want to learn more about gut health from an expert?
Click here to watch, listen or read our interview with Dr. Ruscio who’s best-selling book, Healthy Gut, Healthy You, has paved the way for a ‘start with the gut’ philosophy which has enabled doctors and patient to obtain improved outcomes with minimal expense and effort. In this conversation we discuss the strategies to diagnose issues and then start the healing process within our digestive system.