Did you know. We have 10 times more bacteria in our body than human cells. 10 times more. Most of them hang in our colon where they do much more than digest food. These colonisers (called our microbiome) are thought to massively impact mental and physical health. The gut produces 90% of serotonin. That’s the the happiness hormone you make when you eat chocolate or fall in love.
Our busy lifestyles are putting our gut microbiota under threat.
New research suggests that the range and quantity of bacteria that live in our guts could have a powerful effect on everything from immune system & weight to sleep & mental health. Our busy lifestyles and increased antibiotic consumption (both directly and through the food we eat) are putting our gut microbiota under threat. Don’t stress too much though. There are a few simple ways to improve the diversity of our gut microbiota and help them flourish by making some changes to what we eat.
A developing body of research suggests that foods high in prebiotics and probiotics help and maintain a healthy digestive system by supporting our microbiota.
You’ll have heard about probiotics in yoghurts and pills. They are live bacteria similar to the microbes already present in our gut. Prebiotics are literally food for the microbes.
Probiotics are commonly referred to as ‘good bacteria’. These compete with potentially harmful bacteria in our gut, therefore supporting the immune system. Live yoghurts and kefir contain probiotics called lactobacilli – a group of bacteria that start the fermenting process in milk. Probiotics also feed off foods high in polyphenols like nuts, oils, berries and chocolate. Polyphenols are converted by our gut microbiota into compounds which improve the diversity of our colon and help bacteria thrive. Polyphenols are found in things like blueberries, kiwi, cranberries and red wine. You’re welcome.
Prebiotics are literally food for microbes.
Prebiotics are non-digestible compounds which stimulate the growth and activity of our gut microbiota. you are probably already consuming prebiotics on a daily basis without realising as foods which are high in fibre are usually a great source. Chicory, bananas, asparagus, apples and cocoa are all packed with prebiotics.We are still at the beginning of understanding our gut health. We know our diet has a direct impact on our microbiota and overall health. It’s becoming clearer that a diverse diet which contains a range of prebiotics and polyphenols is critical to ensure a healthy & balanced gut.
Here are a few top tips to help your gut microbes thrive:
- Try to avoid processed and fast food – if you don’t recognise an item on the ingredients list it probably isn’t good for you.
- Feed your gut bacteria with foods high in prebiotics.
- Fibre is a great source of prebiotics – try to aim for 30g of fibre per day.
- Eat antioxidant rich foods, which contain polyphenols, such as berries, seeds, nuts, extra virgin olive oil and dark chocolate.
- Variety is key – aim for 30 different plants each week.