When you’ve had a gutful…

The origin of all health starts and finishes in the gut …adapted from Hippocrates.

From our mouth to our, err, other end, we have about 1000 feet or some 42 metres of surface area in which our body receives things from the outside world – pretty amazing, huh?

Scientists have proven that the bacteria that reside throughout our bodies are the main factor determining the overall health of us. While there are many terms used to describe this, the microbiome is one such term that has stuck.

We have some 2039740 different bacteria in our digestive system at any given time. It is both the diversity of these bacteria and their population that has such a big impact on our health. The health of our parents and our mother is critical in ensuring the gut bacteria we are born with are in sufficient enough numbers, and diverse enough to set the scene for good health. This of course changes as we experience changes in our environment, our health, and diet…

Also critical to our health is the way we feed our bacteria, our microbiome. Basically, we want the good bacteria to flourish by consuming good prebiotic foods, and by supplying plenty of probiotic rich foods and fibre rich foods in our diet.

Prebiotics are present in some foods, and while being indigestible by our bodies, it is our good gut bacteria that use this as their main source of food – in turn encouraging growth and development of the good guys that keep us healthy. While this is a great thing to include in your diet if you have healthy gut bacteria; there are some disease conditions for whom it is not recommended to consume prebiotics – gut conditions like IBS, Crohn’s, SIBO, and people on FODMAPS diets due to gut dysbiosis and food intolerance, to name a few.

Some good sources of prebiotics are in onions, garlic and leeks (higher content when raw), Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, chicory root, asparagus and dandelion greens (all higher prebiotic content if consumed raw). Inulin is also helpful.

Probiotics are foods containing the good bacteria we require in our body for good health. While there are some quality commercial preparations that have helped many of us who have experienced health challenges, there are many food sources that are important to keep your body’s systems ticking over happily.

Fermented foods are an excellent source of probiotics. Think fermented and cultured vegetables, komboucha, yoghurts, kefir.

I have seen people with various health conditions who find some of these sources better for themselves than others, given other intolerances. With anything, best to introduce one new food at a time, take it low and slow, and tune into your body to see if it is serving you well. Remember, we are all individuals, and are in any given period in our life. So what is right for you and for now, may not necessarily be right for another or in the future, and for either of you if you are navigating a particular health challenge in your life – as your environment and health circumstances change, so do your food needs.

Fibre rich foods are an excellent food source for our microbiome, and are of course the best way to clean up our gut. Wholegrain brans if you are tolerant of grain foods, legumes, nuts and seeds all have good sources of fibre along with excellent protein levels   – chia seeds are a personal favourite – and so versatile,
  • Vegetables are a great source of cellulose fibre.
  • Resistant starch from cold cooked potato is another suggestion.

Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” ~ Hippocrates