Go with your gut

Eli Sarre offers some tips for how to encourage a healthy balance of gut bacteria

Maintaining a healthy gut ecosystem may help us to achieve a healthy weight, boost our mood and support vitality and longevity. Good nutrition offers us the key to creating a welcoming home for our gut flora:

Our incredible microbiota is a vastly complex community comprised of trillions of bacteria and yeasts. We are now beginning to discover that our gut microbiome may influence our metabolism, our weight and our immune system function. Even our brain health may be affected by these tiny microbes which, although invisible to the naked eye, outnumber all the cells in our body put together.

Each of us has a gut microbiome that is entirely unique and changing every day. This is one of the most fascinating areas of nutrition research and although we need to understand more, there are a number of things you can do each day to encourage a healthy balance of bacteria.

Studies show that microbial diversity is the most important aspect when aiming to reduce allergies and inflammatory symptoms. Microbial diversity is positively influenced by the number of plant foods we eat each week, so enjoying an abundant array of plant foods is going to set you on the right path.

So how can we best support healthy populations of beneficial bacteria?

1 Fibre

Increase your fibre intake. For most of us in the UK this means increasing the amount of fruit and especially veg we eat daily. If you are already having five a day, aim for seven or even nine portions a day. Our gut microbes ferment the fibre we eat to produce short chain fatty acids. Butyrate is probably the most well understood of these and shows promise in reducing appetite amongst other beneficial effects.

2 Variety

Include many different varieties of fruit and vegetables in your diet. This means a wide array of plant nutrients which in turn supports the diversity of microbes. Challenge yourself to try new and different plant foods and look for seasonal varieties in your local veg box scheme.

3 Prebiotics

Feed your beneficial bacteria by giving them prebiotics. Vegetables high in inulin are especially high in this prebiotic fibre and support your healthy bacteria. Choose artichokes, leeks, onions and garlic for their prebiotic qualities. If you know you react to these foods try some of the other techniques first to make sure you are comfortable.

4 Reduce grazing between meals

Eat earlier in the evening, if you can, to give yourself a good amount of time overnight for your body to fast. When we have a break from snacking, we give our body a chance to get to work maintaining crucial structures within the gut that keep everything functioning as it should. This is also a technique which may be beneficial for achieving a healthy weight.

5 Polyphenols

Polyphenols are a particular kind of plant nutrient with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory function. Polyphenols provide nourishment for beneficial bacteria and encourage healthy populations. They are found in nuts, seeds, berries, olive oil, brassicas, cocoa, coffee, tea – especially green tea – as well as fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley, coriander, chives, sage, garlic and wild garlic.

6 Include probiotic food and drinks in your diet

These are often fermented and contain live microbes. Functional probiotic drinks include kefir and kombucha and are of particular interest for encouraging the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Kombucha has antimicrobial properties which help prevent the growth of less desirable or potentially disease-causing microbes. It is also understood to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential. The fermentation process produces additional acids, vitamins, tea polyphenols and minerals which offer further nutritional benefit.

If you have severe gut symptoms, it’s always best to consult your doctor and work with a registered nutritionist specialising in gut health. One of the wonderful things about nutrition is that it offers you the chance to take the reins and take small steps towards a healthier way of life. Everything has an impact so you can enjoy all the steps above, going at your own pace.

Eli Sarre DipNT mBANT CNHC is the founder of Wildfare Nutrition and is the resident nutritionist with Genie. Visit geniedrinks.co.uk

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