This week we will cover the topic that really affects all of us, that of a healthy gut. Trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi live on or inside of us, and maintaining a good, balanced relationship with them is to our advantage. Together they form the gut microbiome, a rich ecosystem that performs a variety of functions in our bodies. The bacteria in our guts can break down food that body can't digest, produce important nutrients , regulate the immune system and protect against harmful germs. It's important for healthy microbiomes to have a variety of bacterial species and there are many factors affecting them including our environment, medications such as antibiotics and more.
Diet is emerging as one of the leading influences of the health of our guts as we can manipulate the balance of our microbes by paying attention to what we eat. Dietary fibre from foods like fruits, veggies, nuts, legumes and whole grains is the best fuel for gut bacteria. When bacteria digest fibre, they produce short chain fatty acids that nourish the gut barrier, improve immune function, and can help prevent inflammation which reduces the risk of cancer. And the more fibre you ingest the more fibre-digesting bacteria colonise your gut.
Low fibre processed food
When we consume low fibre processed food there is less fuel for the gut bacteria, essentially starving them which leaves us with less diversity and hungry bacteria. Scientists found that fruits, veggies, tea, coffee, red wine and dark chocolate were correlated with increased bacterial diversity. On the other hand, foods high in dairy fat like whole milk, and sugar-sweetened sodas were correlated with decreased diversity.
Minimally processed, fresh foods generally have more fibre and provide better fuel. So lightly steamed, sautéed or raw vegetables are typically more beneficial than fried dishes. There are also ways of preparing food that can actually introduce good bacteria, also known as probiotics into your gut. Fermented foods are full of helpful probiotic bacteria. Originally used as a way of preserving foods before the invention of refrigeration, fermentation remains a traditional practise all over the world. Foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh and kombucha provide variety and vitality to our diets. Yoghurt is another fermented food that can introduce helpful bacteria in our guts. But be aware of brands with too much sugar and not enough bacteria which may not actually help.
These are just general guidelines and more research is needed before we fully understand exactly how these foods interact with our microbiomes. There are positive correlations but the insides of our guts are difficult places to make direct observations. Overall, scientists advise us that microbiomes are crucial for our digestive health. We hope you found it interesting! See you next week!