There is increasing evidence that our gut microbiome, previously known as our intestinal flora, has a major impact on our health and well-being.
Our gut microbiome is made up of beneficial and harmful microbes including bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. The beneficial microbes are involved with making B vitamins, vitamin K and essential amino acids. Friendly microbes have a role in how carbohydrates and fats are used and stored in the body. They also produce a compound called butyrate which has anti-inflammatory properties.
Balanced Gastrointestinal System
When our gastrointestinal system is balanced, the good bugs out way the bad. This means better digestion and absorption of nutrients; less chance of constipation, diarrhoea, wind, bloating and reflux; and a possible reduction in the risk of obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, bowel cancer, type 2 diabetes, depression and anxiety.
Four ways you can enhance your gut microbiome:
- Firstly, include fibre rich, prebiotic foods in your diet such as onions, garlic, leeks, cabbage, legumes and apples, as these feed the beneficial bacteria in your large intestine.
- Secondly, include foods which are high in resistant starch such as cold or reheated potato, sweet potato, barley, peas, corn and firm banana.
- Thirdly, include foods which are rich in probiotics such as natural yoghurt, kefir (fermented seed), sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), kimchee (fermented vegetables) and kombusha (fermented tea).
- Lastly, you could take a high dose probiotic supplement, such as Polybac 8 or Lifespace. These are broad spectrum probiotics, meaning they have a wide range of beneficial bacteria in each capsule. Probiotic supplements are particularly beneficial after taking a course of antibiotics.
It is best to introduce prebiotic foods, probiotic foods and probiotic supplements into your diet slowly, as you gut needs time to adjust to the change in microbes. Introducing these too quickly, can lead to mild unpleasant gastro-intestinal side effects, but with time your gut will adapt, and greatly benefit from these friendly microbes.