What to eat for a healthy gut

13th July 2020 | Eativity editors

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 microbiota – 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 ever-growing pile of research is linking gut health with other health conditions – everything from mood and weight to heart disease and cancer. One area of health that’s of particular concern right now in the age of COVID-19 is immunity, so you may be interested to know that your gut is responsible for about 70 percent of your immune system.

We know that a healthy gut plays a huge role in our overall health,” says nutritionist Jacqueline Alwill. “A healthy gut lining can stop inflammation in your body, because the gut plays a role in micronutrient absorption.

“In addition to this, a healthy gut contributes to a strong immune system, as well as heart health, brain health, improved mood, healthy sleep and effective digestion, and it may help prevent some cancers and autoimmune diseases as well as play a role in weight control.”

So how can we spot a problem with our gut? There are the obvious signs, such as an upset stomach, but other signs can include 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.”

Gut-friendly foods

There are plenty of things you can all do to ensure good gut health, including getting enough sleep, eating foods slowly, staying hydrated and changing your diet, if necessary. 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, such as leeks, garlic, onion, Brussels sprouts, legumes and some grains,” Alwill says. “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, such as 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 overall gut health would be to increase the amount of prebiotic foods you eat,” Alwill advises.