Gut Health 101

First published 11th Nov, 2022

The term “gut health” is the big buzz word in the health arena lately. But what does gut health actually mean? What is a gut microbiome when it’s at home? And why should we be keeping our gut microbiome healthy? 

What Is a Microbiome?

A microbiome is a community of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and fungi that live in a defined space. So our gut microbiome is the collection of all those microscopic things that are living in our gut.

What Is a Healthy Gut Microbiome?

In very simple terms, a healthy microbiome is one where there is balance between the good bacteria and the bad bacteria in our gut. If we have too little of the good guys and too much of the bad guys, this can impact our health in a variety of ways. And not only in the ways you may think. 

The Risks of an Unhealthy Gut Microbiome

You may be surprised to learn that the implications of an unhealthy gut microbiome go further than the obvious “tummy-related problems” such as constipation, bloating and/or diarrhoea. Gut bacteria have been linked to many diseases such as obesity, diabetes, certain types of cancer and even autism. There is a lot of research around the gut-brain axis – this is the communication between the gut and the brain and put simply, how the health of the gut can impact how our brain functions and ultimately our mental wellness. 

What Are The Signs Of An Unhealthy Gut?

  • You could be constipated or have diarrhoea, or fluctuate          between the two.   You may suffer from excess gas and bloating, nausea or heartburn. This is because you have difficulty digesting certain foods.
  • Food intolerances (as opposed to allergies) have been linked to an unbalanced gut.
  • You will feel fatigued and you may notice unintentional weight changes.
  • An unhealthy gut often shows in one’s skin too.

So How Do I Get my Gut Healthy?

Here are some tips you can put into practice today:

  • Avoid sugary, refined and processed foods and drinks as much as possible.
  • Eat a balanced diet of real foods, preferably those that you produce in your own kitchen.
  • Include prebiotic and probiotic foods in your diet.

What Are Prebiotic Foods?

Basically, prebiotic foods are those that contain special types of fibre that we do not digest. The fibre ferments in the digestive tract and serves as nourishment for the good microorganisms in our gut. 

What Should I Eat to Include Prebiotics in my Diet?

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Whole Oats
  • Barley
  • Flaxseeds
  • Cocoa
  • Wheat Bran

When you are doing your own cooking, adding onion and garlic is easy. If you do not eat onions or garlic, try leeks. Choose an apple when you need a snack, not the sugary donut.

What Are Probiotic Foods?

Probiotic foods are the foods that actually contain some of the microorganisms that our gut needs and having a little of one or some each day goes a long way to improving your gut health or keeping it healthy. Don’t overthink it - just choose one or two that suit your taste.

Which Foods Contain Probiotics?

  • Yoghurt, choose plain full cream yoghurt from a good source, preferably straight from the farm or farm stall, if you can.
  • Kefir - the word “kefir” originates from the Turkish word for “feeling good after eating”. It is made by fermenting whole milk with kefir grains. These grains can easily be found at a health store and there is a huge amount of easy to follow info on the internet.
  • Sauerkraut and kimchi, both made from cabbage - make sure there is no vinegar in them.
  • Fermented soy products like tempeh and natto.
  • Pickles made in a salt solution.

Beware the Vinegar

Unfortunately commercially produced pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi often have vinegar in them which kills the beneficial microorganisms and the food is no longer probiotic, so read the labels or make your own! If that sounds like too much PT just stick to a good quality yoghurt for your dose of probiotics.

It's Easier Than You Think!

It only takes a few tweaks of your diet to help those good gut guys along and make your gut a healthier place. And of course, as always, eat real food, get some sunshine, get enough sleep and move your body!


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