Improving your gut health

Improving your gut health is vital for optimal cognitive function.
How can this be done?

In this article, how to ensure your microbiome consists of good bacteria – or more importantly has a diversity of bacteria, prebiotics and probiotics and how to incorporate them into your diet.

The trillions of microbes that are found in your gut carry out such a wide variety of vital bodily functions including
– maintaining a healthy brain
– regulating the immune system
– blood sugar sugar regulation
– metabolism
– nutrient absorption
– stress responses

Emerging research has only continued to highlight the importance of having a healthy gut and seemingly a lot of attention has been given to understanding the vast variety of functions the microbiome actually affects. The strains of bacteria in your gut affect how your body is able to absorb nutrients and vitamins and therefore can affect everything from your body’s physiology, to mood and even behaviour. On the other hand, having a limited diversity of species in your microbiome can actually have adverse outcomes such as increased risk of diabetes, obesity and inflammatory gut diseases like colitis or Crohn’s Disease.

DIVERSITY IS KEY!

> Increase the variety of foods you eat
Our microbiome basically works by by breaking down and fermenting foods to help our bodies produce nutrients vital to cellular function. The greater diversity of food you have, the more colonies of bacteria you allow to flourish which ultimately

Eating a range variety of plants, meats, and healthy fats is an excellent strategy and has been shown to rapidly improve the make-up of the microbiota

> Incorporate fibre into your diet
Both soluble and non soluble fibre come from plants and are forms of carbohydrates, however unlike other carbs, fibre can not be broken down and absorbed by your digestive system.

You’ve probably heard that fibre has an array of benefits (from assisting in bowel movement to weight management, lowering cholesterol, regulating blood sugar and the list goes on).
So, how does this actually affect the microbiome?
Well the fact that we can’t break down fibre (because we simply don’t have the appropriate enzymes) is partly the reason that fibres slows down and benefits digestion. Fibre can go through the small intestines remarkably unchanged (AKA they are digestive resistant)

After passing through the the small intestines (where fat, normal carbohydrates and protein is broken down, it continues through to the colon and this is where the magic happens. The bacteria in the colon use fibre as their own food supply and the breaking down of this fibre creates short chain fatty acids which in turn are used by the cell lining in our colon as its food supply. Short chain fatty acids also enter the bloodstream and communicate with the brain and regulate inflammation.

To keep it simple: Adequate fibre consumption = happy gut… happy gut = happy human…

Source of this digestive resistant fibre include under ripe bananas, cooked and cooled potato and rice.

The other two types of fibre include:
1. Soluble fibre
– assists in slowing down the emptying process in our stomach, helping us feel fuller and managing weight.
– helps in lowering cholesterol
– reduces cardiovascular disease
– stabilises blood glucose levels
– Can be found in fruits, vegetables, oats, barley and legumes.
2. Insoluble fibre
– absorbs water to help to soften the contents of our bowels
– support regular bowel movements
– helps to keep us full and keep the bowel environment healthy.
– Can be found in wholegrain breads and cereals, nuts, seeds, wheat bran and the skin of fruit and vegetables.

> Increase Omega 3
Research has shown that higher consumption of omega-3 (and higher serum levels of omega-3) have been to linked to having more diversity in strains of bacteria found in the gut.

The study, published in Scientific Reports, found that the women who had a higher dietary intake of omega-3 and higher serum levels had a more diverse gut microbiome

Lastly, while eating an array of certain foods can have such a positive impact on our microbiome, it also important to consider other lifestyle factors that can impact the microbiome. Certain medications and life stressors can have a negative effect on our microbiome. Interestly, enough exercise and meditation has been reported to have positive outcomes of the bacterium in our gut.

References

Cristina Menni et al. Omega-3 fatty acids correlate with gut microbiome diversity and production of N-carbamylglutamate in middle aged and elderly women, Scientific Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-10382-2

Nugent, A. P. (2005). Health properties of resistant starch. Nutrition Bulletin, 30(1), 27-54. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-3010.2005.00481.x