How a variety in diet and bacteria can lead to a healthier life in many ways
Gut health. A topic that is becoming increasingly focused on in the health and nutrition world. But why is it important?
Our gut is very complex, so let’s break it down. Central to gut health is the microbiome. This is the population of microbes that live inside the large intestine (colon). Yes we have trillions of tiny microbes living in our colon - don’t worry, it’s much better than it sounds! Amongst these microbes are thousands of beneficial bacterial species which play an important role in digestion where they help break down indigestible food components such as fibre into short chain fatty acids. These can then be used by the body to give our cells energy and assist organ function.
From this you can see that if there is an imbalance in the gut microbiome we could potentially have a problem. This is referred to as microbial dysbiosis. Basically it is when the bad bacteria outweigh the good bacteria. Over our lifetime many factors can lead to a loss of microbial diversity and impaired gut health such as stress, poor diet and antibiotics. Microbial dysbiosis is also present in many diseases such as obesity and inflammatory bowel disease. So basically to have a healthy gut we want more of the good guys and less of the bad guys!
So what can we do to promote good gut health?
Firstly, it is important to have a large diversity of beneficial bacteria in our gut. Diet is a great way to ensure you are promoting a healthy microbiome. Consuming a diverse range of fruits and vegetables is key as they each contain different components so rely on different microbial species to break them down. Therefore, the more diversity in your diet the more diversity in your microbiome.
Probiotics are another great way to increase the amount of beneficial bacteria in your gut. These are live cultures of beneficial bacteria. Therefore, by consuming probiotics you are literally adding more good bacteria to your gut as they can survive digestion and reside in the colon. Probiotics are naturally found in fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir and sourdough bread where the fermentation process promotes the growth of these beneficial bacteria.
Many fermented foods contain Lactobacillus acidophilous, a common bacterial species found in many probiotics. You’ve probably noticed it mentioned on the back of a jar of our sauerkraut or even your favourite kombucha. This is a beneficial bacterial species so is great for adding more of the good guys into your gut. Scientific studies have shown that probiotics containing both Lactobacillus acidophilus and the Bifidobacterium species reduced abdominal bloating in those with inflammatory bowel diseases. This suggests probiotics are likely to be especially beneficial for those with impaired gut health.
So next time you have a mouthful of sauerkraut just imagine all the goodies you are giving your gut!
Studying a Bachelor of Science (Human Nutrition)