Improve Your Gut Health With These Foods
Do you suffer from bloating, constipation, gas, diarrhea, heartburn, eczema, fatigue, or have you recently been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease? Scientific research shows that these symptoms may be caused by an imbalance of bacteria in the stomach and intestinal barrier.
If you’ve been treated for these symptoms but can’t seem to get rid of them, you might benefit from gaining a better understanding of how your gut works, especially your gut microbiome. This will allow you to tailor your diet for a healthier gut and better lifestyle!
What is the gut microbiome?
The term “gut microbiome” refers to the bacteria and microorganisms found in the lining of the stomach and intestines. The microbiome plays an important role in preparing your immune system, digesting the food you eat, and helping to produce vitamins and energy for your body. Although we are not aware of our microbiome, studies have shown that it affects our overall health and mood.
How does your diet influence your gut microbiome?
The interaction between diet and gut microbiota is reciprocal: just as the microbiota acts on digested nutrients, food, in turn, exerts a fundamental effect on the gut microbial system. Its metabolic activity depends, to a large extent, on the amount and proportion of carbohydrates and non-digestible proteins that reach the intestine. Furthermore, long-term dietary patterns not only influence short-term intestinal activity, but also help shape the composition of the gut microbiota.
Animal trials and research with human gut microbiota samples show that changes in diet can cause changes in microbial composition. Considering that the gut microbiota not only affects digestion, but also general health, the immune system and even brain function, it can be said that, to a large extent, “we are what we eat”. Therefore, diet is a fundamental issue to preserve gastrointestinal health because, by eating and digesting, we are also feeding our intestinal microbiota and, therefore, influencing its variety and composition. If this balance is disturbed, it can lead to a number of disorders, including metabolic diseases, functional and inflammatory intestinal disorders, and other autoimmune diseases. Although the microbial balance can be altered for many reasons, including infectious pathogens or the use of antibiotics, the role of nutrition and lifestyle are decisive.
Maintaining a balanced diet is worthwhile as it encourages the formation and maintenance of a well-structured microbial community in which the different species of bacteria live in a system of “check and balance”.
If your diet consists of a lot of processed and sugary foods, as well as high-fat foods, it can decrease the good bacteria in your gut and lead to inflammation.
Inflammation in the body has been linked to diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and irritable bowel syndrome.
What foods promote a healthy gut microbiome?
The best way to maintain a healthy microbiome is to balance the different species of bacteria that are already present in your gut. This can be achieved by eating foods that contain prebiotics and probiotics.
Prebiotics are plant fibres that help with the growth of healthy bacteria in the intestine. Most fruits and vegetables that contain fibre and resistant starch are high in prebiotics, so eating more of them will promote gut health.
Here are more examples of foods that contain prebiotics:
- Wheat bran
- Flax seeds
Probiotics contain live organisms (good strains of bacteria) that increase and add to the healthy bacteria in your gut. Plain yogurt is usually the most common probiotic food that health professionals suggest you eat.
However, here are more examples of foods that contain probiotics:
- Sourdough bread
- Fermented sauerkraut
- Fermented pickles
- Cottage cheese
Besides the foods mentioned, what else will promote a healthy gut microbiome?
Increasing your intake of prebiotic and probiotic foods is not the only way to promote better gut health. Other factors to manage include:
- Reducing your stress levels
- Getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night
- Drinking 8 glasses of water every day
- Taking a prebiotic and probiotic supplement
- Eating your food slowly to promote better digestion and absorption of nutrients
When should I see a doctor?
It is always recommended to speak with your doctor before adding a prebiotic and probiotic supplement to your diet. Your doctor will be able to advise you on how to take the supplement and what foods to eliminate from your diet.
If you show recurring symptoms such as cramps, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, or fatigue, it will also help to talk to your doctor about any food intolerances you may have. Food intolerances are a common cause of an unbalanced gut microbiome. Your doctor can help you identify if you have food intolerances and help you manage and adapt your diet so your gut microbiome stays balanced and healthy.
The lenmed Group is a world-class chain of Private Hospitals that brings quality healthcare to communities across Southern Africa.
Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guide. Always visit your doctor for any health-related advice or diagnosis.