This is a brief glimpse into why our gut health is so important and some of factors that contribute to the health of one of our biggest organs.
Susie Willsher, Registered Nutritional Therapist
A healthy gut is vital for a healthy life but why?
The gut is an amazing organ. It is actually one of the biggest organs in the human body. As well as all the processes of food digestion that we have a basic understanding of, there is so much more going on in there. Scientists and doctors are only now realising how important our gut is for the health of our entire body.
The complete ecosystem
Our gut hosts a complete individual ecosystem, called your “microbiome.” The functions of the microbiome are complex but we can think of it as containing good and bad bacteria that have various jobs to do. We may be hosting some bad bacteria, parasites and yeasts but if our good bacteria are strong and varied they can usually keep the bad bacteria under control. Then they don’t cause us problems and we live in harmony. If, however, those good guys get compromised or overworked, or some particularly bad ones get the upper hand, this can cause reactions all over the body.
How your microbiome is made
What contributes to the make up of your individual microbiome will depend on many different aspects of your life from the day you were born or even before. Such as if you were born via a vaginal birth or c-section; where you live or lived; if you grew up with pets or not; how much you get outside in nature or how often you take or took antibiotics. Do you use a lot of antibacterial household or personal cleaning products? And, very importantly, the kinds of foods you do or don’t eat have a massive impact on your microbiome.
When your microbiome needs help
Problems and imbalances with our gut health have been linked not only to more obvious tummy problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, but also mental health problems such as anxiety and depression and even autism. Then there are autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and rheumatoid arthritis and even how often we get colds and flus and how quickly we bounce back from them. Our microbiome produces vitamins and helps us absorb essential nutrients from the food we eat. If it is not healthy we can become deficient in essential nutrients which can, in turn, negatively impact our health.
What we can do
This is why looking after our gut health is so important. Luckily, our microbiome is flexible and changes all the time so we can improve our gut health pretty quickly. As a nutritional therapist, part of my job is helping people find out where the problems or imbalances may lie. I identify what the reasons contributing to them may be and then help people to make the dietary, supplement and lifestyle changes they need to get their microbiome and their general health into tip top condition.
Some of the tips I give my patients to support their microbiome are, firstly, to eat a rainbow of coloured fruit and vegetables, with some legumes and oats. These foods contain fibre and carbohydrates also known as “prebiotics” that feed the good bacteria and make them strong. They also contain soluble fibre that absorbs toxins and bi-products our body needs to get rid of and helps to excrete them.
And there are fermented foods that contain good bacteria called “probiotics” that further support our microbiome and help make it stronger. These include fermented foods such as kefir, yoghurt, kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi. If you don’t fancy fermenting your own, there is a huge variety of these “live” foods on the market now; so try some today and start to incorporate them into your daily diet.
Gut health is so important for our overall health that we should do our best to look after it.