The days where you digestive tract was just a long ‘food processing pipe’ are long gone. Instead, researchers are unlocking the secret science within the gut, and we’re in wonder about how it all works together. More than that, the microbiome is vital, supported by all kinds of nutrients and food substances.
Follow our 3 strategies to super gut health…
STRATEGY ONE: Familiar with fibre…
If you thought that fibre was all about ‘roughage’, think again. Visit HealthyDoesIt’s summary on fibre here if you want to know about different fibre types.
Insoluble fibres can be fermented by gut bacteria into short chain fatty acids, which studies are show can help with immune function, increasing the diversity of bacteria in the gut, and can help to make the digestive mucosa (surface) more resilient to unwanted biological nasties. Insoluble fibres also bulk up the gut contents, helping it to move along, reducing build-up time for ‘putrifying’ toxins.
Look out for: Hemi-celluloses, celluloases, fructans. Found in: Wheat flour, brown rice, nuts, beans and vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli and celery.
Soluble fibres create a gel in the intestine which can slow down absorption of nutrients such as glucose and lipds (fats), making them especially useful for helping to manage blood sugar levels.
Look out for: Inulin, pectin, guar gum. Found in: Oats, wheat, lentils, split peas, beans, seeds and nuts, carrots and applies.
Prebiotics, which are from the soluble figure group, can positively change the number of types of gastrointestinal bacteria in the gut. They also help to balance the gut’s pH (acidity and alkalinity, which is important for digestive enzymes to work). Prebiotics also help to bulk up faece, helping you get a good shape and size. They also increase production of short chain fatty acids.
Look out for: beta glucan, fructo-oligosaccharides, oligofructose, inulin, galactooligosaccharides, guar gum, maltodextrin. Found in: Mushrooms, cereals, milk sugars
STRATEGY TWO: Fantastic Phytonutrients…
Did you know, that of all of the phytochemicals you find in foods (usually brightly coloured plant foods such as fruits and vegetables), only 5-10% are absorbed? The rest is transformed into health-helping compounds (for the heart and blood sugar balance) by bacteria in the lower gut, in the colon. It’s interesting to note that studies have long found a link between fresh fruits and vegetables and reduced incidence of heart disease and diabetes, and the gut bacteria might, therefore, be doing their bit to help this.
There are all kinds of phytochemicals that can help with this; flavonoids, carotenoids, phytosterols (in nuts and seeds), allicins (from onions and garlic) and glucosinolates (found in dark green leafy veg).
STRATEGY THREE: The science of bacteria and nutrients…
Some bacteria are clever, and can make B vitamins and vitamin K themselves to help keep the cells in the digestive system healthy and to make sure that the good bacteria in the gut are healthy for when unwanted pathogens appear. The health of the gut lining is especially important as this plays a role in how well nutrients are absorbed from the food that is eaten and broken down.
The ability of gut bacteria to provide good levels of B vitamins is important, and we know that conditions such as Crohn’s disease, and low production of them from dysbiosis (altered levels of gut bacteria) has been seen to result in inflammation.
However, no matter how good they are at making some B vitamins for the body, there are some where the diet must provide them, such folate, and biotin. Vitamin B12 is made by gut bacteria, but levels in the diet must top them up for provision to the rest of the body.
Vitamins C and E are antioxidants, and studies have shown that good intakes are linked to good levels of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in the digestive tract (helpful bacterial) and lower levels of E.Coli (which can cause ill health).
Vitamin D is a known regulator of the gut microbiome (yet another reason to keep on taking your vitamin D) and low levels have been found to result in inflammation.Vitamin D can lead to the levels of gut bacteria getting out of balance (dysbiosis), which can impact on health and wellbeing.
Gut bacteria affect absorption of calcium, magnesium and iron in the lower digestive tract. In fact, if there are prebiotics around, iron absorption increases. One well known gut bacteria group seems dependent on iron – Lactobacillus, and iron deficiency leads to low levels in the gut.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
- Take a supplement of live bacterial cultures and the substances that help to feed and grow them.
- Take a broad multivitamin and mineral formulation to safeguard good dietary intakes of important nutrients
- If you are low in iron, seek advice about a good form that will help you to raise levels.
- Eat a wide and varied diet, including foods which are known to help grow a diverse and strong microbiome, such as fermented foods; kefir, kimchi, pickled cabbage, kombucha.
- See a practitioner if you have digestive upset, as balancing your gut bacteria, and creating a healthy microbiome is often helpful.