Did you know that over 80% of your immune system is in your gut? With that in mind, it will come as no surprise that taking care of your tummy is essential for good health. Fuel it with the right food and it will help fight off any invaders that come your way.
The trillions of gut bacteria (or microbes) that live inside your body (and outnumber your cells) form your microbiome. See it as your very own ecosystem that needs constant care and attention to help it flourish. Yours is unique, and adapts to the changes in your environment. It exists throughout your body, but primarily in the gut.
Good bacteria keep your microbiome in order, helping digest food, produce vitamins and regulate the immune system. Bad bacteria usually exist in low quantities, and are harmless, but give them what they need and they’ll take control. Your defences will go down, putting you at risk of infection. Here’s how to look after yours.
Avoid processed foods
A diet high in processed foods, alcohol and sugar is not a good idea. Your bad bacteria thrive on these enemies and will win the battle.
Be careful with antibiotics
Antibiotics save lives, but they need to be taken with caution, and only when essential. In fighting infection, they’re unable to distinguish between good and bad bacteria. Shooting down everything in sight, they can leave your microbiome looking rather bleak.
Eat a plant-based diet
Good bacteria love wholesome nutritious produce. Enjoy a colourful variety of fresh vegetables, and stock up on fibre-rich foods.
Plenty of prebiotics
Prebiotics, a type of dietary fibre, travel straight through to the large intestine where they are welcomed by the good bacteria. Acting as a fertiliser, they help the bacteria grow and multiply. Garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus and Jerusalem artichokes are great sources.
Remember your resistance starch
Resistant starch also completes its journey in the large intestine. You’ll find this in grains, pulses, seeds and unripe bananas, as well as cooked potatoes that have been cooled.
Probiotics are live bacteria that exist in fermented foods. Eating probiotic-rich foods will introduce new varieties into your microbiome. Miso, kimchi, kombucha, cider vinegar and unpasteurised sauerkraut are brilliant examples.
Polyphenols are micronutrients (essential vitamins and minerals) with antioxidant qualities. You’ll find these in cloves, berries, pulses and cocoa (in moderation), and your good bacteria adore them.
Help your body produce collagen
Collagen helps protect the lining of your gut, keeping it strong. Eating cashews, tomatoes, citrus fruits and leafy greens will help your body produce collagen naturally.
There are many processed foods on the market promising to help with gut health, but they’re likely to contain hidden sugars and additives that have the reverse effect. The wholefood way really is the only way. Give it a try.
Have your say
It’s not always easy to spot an unhappy tummy, as the symptoms pop up in some unlikely places. If you suffer from digestive problems, low energy, skin issues, low mood or joint pain, we’d love to hear from you. A change in diet could be just what you need. Click here to find out more about our Steps to health plans.