Your gut is much more than just the organ that digests and absorbs the food you eat. Did you know that the human body has more microbes than there are stars in the Milky Way? Inside the gut we have trillions of microbes (bacteria, viruses, fungi etc.) that are extremely important for gut health as well as overall health. In fact, 90% of all diseases can be linked, in some way, to the gut & health of our microbes living there. So, we can say that these little fellows are pretty significant to our health in many ways.
Follow your gut microbes
Think of your gut microbes as your children you need to nourish in order for them to be healthy, to grow and to do well in life. We need to make gut health a priority every day as research shows that we can positively alter our gut microbes in a matter of days with the help of our diet. The best way to take care of our gut health is with healthy, nourishing foods. So in turn our gut microbes can take care of us, by influencing the immune system, nervous system, metabolism, fitness, memory, cognition, mental health and much more.
How can we nourish the gut for optimal health?
Fibre it up
Dietary fibre is one of the best ways to nourish our gut microbes. Adult men need 38 g of fibre and adult women need 25 g of fibre daily. The best way to get in plenty of fibre are from plant foods like fruits, vegetables, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains like oats, whole-wheat bread & pasta, barley and brown rice. Aim to eat 5 fruits and vegetables daily or 30 plant-based foods per week. Try to eat less refined starches like white breads, pastries, white rice and sugary cereals. Opt for whole grains and whole foods instead, your gut microbes will thank you. Remember to drink plenty of water (1.5 – 2L per day) with your fibre rich diet to prevent constipation.
Getting in those Polyphenols
Polyphenols is just a fancy word for certain compounds found in plants that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These foods raise the beneficial bacteria while lowering the harmful bacteria in your gut.
They are found in the following foods and beverages:
- Fruits like berries, grapes, mango, apples
- Vegetables like olives, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, onions
- Soybeans, corn, whole grains
- Beverages like coffee, tea, green tea, red wine
- Spices & herbs like ginger, cinnamon, cumin, garlic, curry powder, black pepper
- Olive oil
- Dark chocolate and cocoa
The list goes on and on. A general good idea is to incorporate these foods in your every day diet to best benefit your gut microbes.
Fermented foods and probiotics
Aim to eat something living every day!
Fermented foods are great for gut health. Examples include sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, kefir, kombucha and yogurt. Probiotics are the little bugs (the living microbes) that can benefit the health of the host (that’s you) when consumed in adequate amounts. Probiotics can be found in fermented foods, supplements and drugs. Fermented foods are the best way to get in your daily dose of probiotics without having to purchase supplements/drugs that are often costly. With yogurt, remember only some yogurts contain the right type and enough of the beneficial bacteria that we want. When looking for a yogurt product that contains probiotics, scan the label for live cultures like Bifidobacterium and Lactobaccilus.
The deal with Prebiotics
Prebiotics are not the same as probiotics. Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that can get fermented to serve as food for the microbes (the little bugs) in the gut. Prebiotics are found in whole grains like barley and oats; fruits like berries, vegetables like onions and asparagus and legumes like soybeans. Just make sure to eat plenty of different fiber rich foods every day.
Healthy food is the best way to nourish our gut microbes. Start by making small changes to your every day diet. Your gut microbes will surely thank you!
“We need to take care of our gut microbes so that they can take care of us – Andrea Hardy.”
- So D, Whelan K, Rossi M, et al. Dietary fiber intervention on gut microbiota composition in healthy adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2018;107(6):965-983. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqy041
- Valdes, Ana M., et al. “Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health.” Bmj 361 (2018).