When we think of gut health, we automatically think of our stomach in most cases. When we say we are ill it’s all about having an ‘upset tummy’ but the gut comprises a huge expanse in the human body, and this goes the whole way down from the mouth to the anus.
Bacteria and microbes often thought of in relation to disease are in fact the route to good health. The body houses trillions of bacteria and the most densely populated areas are actually in our gut. Think of the gut as if it were London, lots of different people from all over the world living together. Sometimes in harmony sometimes, not!
What you eat can have a huge bearing on how well your body performs. Therefore, it is wise to feed the good microbes the right food as these bacteria play a critical role in digestion, immune function and weight management.
The best way to check if your gut is healthy is to have a regular bowel movement that is easy to pass. But in order to get to this you need to help ‘tone and regulate’ your system and like any organ in the body it needs regular exercise! This is where the right kinds of food come in!
Food to keep your gut healthy:
- Vegetables provide the gut with the fibre it needs to feed and keep them healthy, so keep a diary and ensure you are eating 5-10 portions daily. Diversification is key here also as like anything if you keep on having the same foods, the body will get lazy and bored! Fruit, cruciferous veggies, fibrous vegetables, wholefoods and nuts will go a long way to help keeping the gut happy.
- Prebiotic foods are also important here as the fibre in these veggies will really help to preload the good bacteria and ‘fertilise’ the gut. Prebiotic foods are vegetables like garlic, leeks, onion, Jerusalem artichokes.
- Probiotic food is also a huge support to the gut and in order to help build the good bacteria these are foods that have been fermented and in doing so have created their own bacteria. Kombucha, Tempeh, sauerkraut and yoghurt like kefir, are examples of probiotic foods.
Do we all have equal digestion?
At the start of life, our digestive systems are pretty much equal but as we age things begin to change. Women tend to have the added bonus of Uterus and Ovaries, and this means that the colon has to go around this. Sex Hormones are believed to have an extra effect on digestion and women are 10 times more likely to suffer bowel issues like IBS than men due to this.
"Women empty much slower than men and in relation to the gall bladder, this can increase the chances of higher cholesterol, which then has an effect not only on digestion but also cardiovascular health."
All the more reason to keep an eye on things and to spend more time working on the system from the start!
Lifestyle suggestions to keep the gut healthy
Food is one big way to keep the gut healthy, but another way to keep it functioning well is via circulation. This can be achieved by regular exercise that keeps the blood flowing. The colon is the second largest organ in the body after the skin and it needs to be kept moist, plump and well maintained. Research on mice showed that mice that did regular exercise had a completely different gut microbiome than the more sedentary mince. The fit mice had much more lactobacilli bacteria and also Bifido bacteria species. Both of which are important for absorption of nutrients in the body.