How does the food you eat affect your gut?

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Food is Medicine

How does the food you eat affect your gut?

Trillions of bacteria and fungi live inside us, and together they form the gut microbiome, which is the ecosystem that performs variety of functions in body.

The gut has many roles: it breaks down food body can’t digest, produces important nutrients, regulates the immune system, and protects against harmful germs. We don’t know exactly what good bacteria we need, but we do know that a healthy gut consists of a variety of bacteria.

Factors that affect our microbiome include:

  • Environment
  • Medications such as antibiotics
  • Whether we were delivered by C-section
  • Diet

Diet is one of the leading influences on health of our guts. We can’t control all the factors, but we can manipulate the balance of our bacteria by paying attention to what we eat. Dietary fibre (fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts & seeds, brown rice or pasta, wholegrain bread or breakfast cereals) is the best fuel for gut bacteria.  When bacteria digest fibre, they product short chain fatty acids that nourish the gut area, improve immune function, and prevent inflammation.

What happens when we eat low fibre?

Low fibre means less fuel for the gut bacteria, causing less diversity within the gut microbiome and more hungry bacteria which can begin feeding on the mucus lining.

Fruits, vegetables, tea, coffee, red wine and dark chocolate have been proven to increase the bacteria diversity. They contain polyphony’s which are naturally occurring antioxidant compound. Foods high in dairy fat, such as whole milk or butter, are correlated with decreased diversity.

How food is prepared also matters. Food that is minimally processed and fresh contain more fibre and provide better fuel. Your best choice is lightly steamed, sautéed or raw.

There are also ways of preparing food that introduce good bacteria: these are called Probiotics. Fermented foods are saturated with helpful bacteria (like lactobacillus or bifidobacteria). Fermentation was originally a way of preserving food before refrigerators, and today it is still a traditional practice. You may be familiar with fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, natto, kefir, or kombucha.

Yogurt is another fermented food that introduces helpful bacteria, however not all yogurt fits this criteria. Yogurts to look out for that you may want to avoid or reduce in your diet is yogurts that are high in sugar.

The great news, we have the power to fire up the bacteria in our gut. Fill up on fibre, fresh fermented food, and trust your gut to stay strong.

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