The words gut microbiome, gut health and gut microbes are commonly used these days. If you don’t fully understand what they mean things can get confusing. The gut microbiome is involved in many aspects of our health, including our mental health. Our gut microbiome is the term used to describe the variety of microorganisms that live in our digestive tract. Not only do these microbes help us to fully digest our food, they also play an important role in our health and wellbeing. Stay tuned as we answer some popular questions about the gut microbiome. We will also give you some of our top tips for keeping your gut microbes healthy and happy.
How do you maintain a healthy microbiome?
Three things we should all do to maintain a healthy microbiome include eating a fibre-rich diet, eating a variety of different plant foods and drinking plenty of water.
1. Fibre feeds our microbes and keeps them happy. There are two types of fibre which are both important. Soluble fibre is digested by our gut microbes, whereas insoluble fibre helps to keep things moving. Soluble fibre is in foods like oats, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, fruit and vegetables. Insoluble fibre can be found in some vegetables and wholegrains.
2. Eating lots of different plant foods each week increases the variety of nutrients you are consuming. We like to aim for 30 different plants per week to maintain and maximise your gut health.
3. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day helps to look after our microbiome. It helps to keep our digestive system moving and operating effectively.
What’s the deal with pre and probiotics?
Probiotics are the ‘good’ bacteria which are naturally found in our gut, whereas prebiotics are the fibres and sugars which feed the good bacteria. A good way to think of it is probiotics are contained in a food or supplement and consuming them helps transport them into your gut – however not all of them make it there due to the acidic nature of the stomach and stomach acid. Prebiotics are the fuel for the good bacteria – similar to how carbohydrates are the best energy fuel for your body, prebiotics are the best fuel for the good gut bacteria.
Foods that are naturally rich in pre and probiotics are great for your gut health. There are high levels of probiotics in fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir and miso. Foods that are high in prebiotics include bananas, onion, garlic, many types of vegetables and wholegrains.
How do we tell if our gut health is suffering?
Gastro-intestinal symptoms are a common sign that our gut health is suffering. These symptoms may include bloating, diarrhoea and even abdominal pain. However, this does not mean you should make drastic changes to your diet. There are many reasons our gut health may be suffering, including a recent course of antibiotics or a poorly balanced diet. If you find you have regular gastrointestinal symptoms which do not improve, it may be beneficial to see a health care professional such as your doctor or a dietitian. They can discuss your concerns and help you improve your gut health.
How do we get our gut-health back on track?
There a number of things you can do to help get your gut health back on track. This involves looking after ourselves from the inside out. First, focus on eating a wide variety of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains. This helps to support and feed your gut microbes. Then, you can ensure you are consuming a variety of pre and probiotics. It is also important to drink plenty of water (2-2.5L/day), take part in regular exercise and keep on top of your stress levels. This is different for everybody but can include regular physical activity, meditation or even spending time with friends and family.
Please note: If you believe there is an issue or something that just doesn’t seem quite right, it is always best to consult a health professional. This could be your regular GP or a dietitian. It is important to speak to someone who is a professional in the field and understands the best way to approach your symptoms.
Image sourced from @Pinterest