Gut health is a hot topic on the health scene and for good reason; research shows it affects many different functions in our bodies, from our metabolism to our immune system and even our mood.
But what is gut health? It refers to the functioning of our entire gastrointestinal tract. Microbiota, or gut flora, is the name given to the trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi and viruses (all totally normal), that naturally live in our gut – and everyone’s gut microbiota is unique to them, similar to DNA. Lots of things can affect this delicate natural balance, from having a poor diet to stress. But if we feed our microbiota with good bacteria, they’ll increase in numbers, helping us to have a healthy gut, which in turn can improve our digestion, immunity and cognitive health, and reduce our risk of disease.
The reason your gut can affect your mood is because it’s linked to the brain, making it even more important that we look after it. When it comes to keeping our gut happy, what we consume definitely has a role to play, but what foods are good for our gut?
PREBIOTICS: FANTASTIC FIBRE
Prebiotics are fibres that feed and stimulate the growth of good gut bacteria.
The most common prebiotics are inulin and oligosaccharide carbohydrates, which you can find in fruit and vegetables, particularly bananas, onions, garlic, asparagus, leeks, artichokes and chicory. They’re also found in wholegrains, such as oats, plus certain nuts, such as almonds and cashews, beans and pulses.
All of these ingredients are fairly easy to get hold of, so if you can start including them in your diet more regularly, that’s only going to be a good thing. Check out our recipes below for inspiration:
If you’re increasing your fibre intake, it can take some time for your large intestine to adjust to this change, so try increasing your fibre intake gradually along with drinking lots of water – this will reduce your risk of discomfort.
PROBIOTICS: FANTASTIC FERMENTING
Probiotics are the live, ‘friendly’ bacteria and microorganisms that are found naturally in the gut* and help to maintain its healthy balance. From kimchi and sauerkraut to kefir and kombucha, there are so many delicious, gut-friendly probiotic foods to explore – think live yoghurt, fermented vegetables and cultured drinks. And it’s so easy to munch on these probiotics when you know how…
Consuming specific probiotics may be particularly beneficial after taking a course of antibiotics, recovering from a digestive disruption (such as food poisoning), or to ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It’s important to bear in mind, though,, that our individual responses to probiotics can vary due to physiological differences and the composition of the our gut microbiota to start with**.
DIVERSITY IS KEY TO GUT HEALTH
Following a healthy and balanced diet – eating from all of the food groups and consuming a diverse range of plant-based foods – is the best thing we can do to keep our gut happy and healthy. Here are some of our favourite veg-packed recipes to get you inspired:
If you have any further questions or experience or suffer from discomfort in the gut, please speak to your GP or a registered dietician.
We all know that balance is key when it comes to eating well – but what does it really mean? Find out here.