What to eat for a healthy gut
There are 100 trillion bacteria living in your gut. If you do the right things to keep them happy, it can improve your overall health. Here’s how to eat your way to a healthy gut.
While we usually think of bacteria as being something bad, there are about 100 trillion bacteria living in your gut. And a lot of them are the good guys. This enormous population of bacteria – collectively known as your gut microbiome – is unique to each individual. But if you get your own gut bacteria in balance, it can improve your health in any number of ways.
An growing pile of research is linking gut health with a variety of health conditions. One area of health that’s of particular concern right now in the age of COVID is immunity. So you may be interested to know that your gut is responsible for about 70 percent of your immune system. That’s certainly inspiration for building a healthy gut.
“A healthy gut plays a huge role in overall health,” says nutritionist Jacqueline Alwill. “Healthy gut lining can stop inflammation in the body, as it plays a role in micronutrient absorption. A healthy gut also contributes to a strong immune system, as well as heart health, brain health, improved mood, healthy sleep and effective digestion. It may even help prevent some cancers and autoimmune diseases, and plays a role in weight control.”
So how do you spot a gut problem? There are obvious signs, such as an upset stomach. But there are other signs, including sleep disturbances, weight changes and skin irritation.
“As we’re all unique, the signs of an unhealthy gut differ in each of us,” Alwill says. “So, if you do feel there’s something amiss, it’s best to talk to your doctor about your concerns.”
There are loads of things you can do to ensure gut health. Get enough sleep, eat slowly, stay hydrated and change your diet, if needed. But eating foods that contain prebiotics – types of dietary fibre that feed the good bacteria in your gut – can also make a difference.
“There are lots of foods that contain prebiotics naturally,” Alwill says. “Such as leeks, garlic, onion, Brussels sprouts, legumes and some grains. A lot of retailers are now offering options that provide added prebiotics, like Dairy Farmers A2 Goodness + Prebiotic milk.”
Foods that are best for an overall healthy gut and a healthy immune system include those high in fibre. Think bananas, berries, broccoli and peas; fermented foods like yoghurt, tempeh and kimchi; as well as collagen-boosting foods like salmon, eggs and citrus fruits.
“But my main recommendation to maintain a healthy gut would be to increase the amount of prebiotic foods you eat,” Alwill advises.