The Importance of Your Gut Health

With the growing market for Gut boosting foods such as Kimchi and Sauerkraut, it seems clear that taking care of our guts is becoming more popular than ever. There are trillions of bacteria in our gut, so many that we can almost consider our gut itself to be a mini eco-system, but why is it important to look after our gut flora, and are there simple ways we can improve our general health through our guts?

While everyone has a unique gut microbiota, our microbiome all carry out the same physiological functions, such as digestion, production of Vitamins (Eg- B and K), and aiding immune function by creating a barrier and helps fight bad harmful bacteria. Containing over 2000 different species of bacteria, our gut microbiota can potentially weigh up to 2kg. Our gut contains over tens of trillions of bacteria which is around ten times more than the amount of cells we have in our body, and it is now thought that these bacteria have more of an effect on our overall health than we first thought.

Why is Gut Health important?

Although research is still emerging, yet strengthening, it now seems like our gut health may play a pivotal role in our overall health. Our microbiome are now linked to conditions such as IBS, mental health issues, obesity and overall mood. Although bad gut health can be genetic, a poor diet including consuming alcohol or a fatty junk food diet doesn’t help. Having food intolerances can also affect gut health, as well as stress and certain medications. However, there are ways to give your gut a boost.

Tips for a healthy gut

Fermented Foods/Probiotics: Rapidly increasing in popularity, natural probiotics such as Kefir, Sauerkraut, Kombucha, Kimchi and even natural yogurt have a positive effect on gut health by increasing the good bacteria, and reducing the amount of enterobacteriaceae, which is a group of ‘bad’ bacteria that can cause disease.

Prebiotics: Prebiotics act like a fertiliser in the Gut, promoting the growth of the ‘good’ bacteria. Prebiotics are naturally found in some fruit and veg such as asparagus, leeks, onions and cabbage but can also be bought as a supplement (although real food is always the best option so fill up on gut boosting prebiotic fruit and veg for optimal nutrition).  Different to Probiotic foods, Prebiotics do not contain living organisms, instead they aid microbiome as they contain the indigestible fibres that are able to ferment in our GI system.

Recovering after Antibiotics: Antibiotics can harm the good bacteria in our stomach, so if you must take an antibiotic, be sure to eat a diet filled with gut boosting foods after to repair any damage.

Avoid Processed food: Often Processed foods can contain ingredients that suppress the good bacteria in our gut, so eat a healthy balanced diet filled with fruit and vegetables and limit junk food for optimal gut health.

Perhaps avoid Artificial Sweeteners: Although there is still not strong evidence, and most studies have not taken place on human subjects, it has been suggested that artificial sweeteners can negatively impact gut health. There is too little evidence to say that we should completely avoid them if we want healthy guts, but it is worthwhile being mindful of our consumption of these sweeteners due to this emerging evidence.

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Katie Kavanagh

Katie Kavanagh

Katie is a registered Associate Nutritionist with the UKVRN through the Association for Nutrition. Katie completed her Masters degree in Clinical Nutrition and Health in Glasgow Caledonian University and her Bachelors Degree in UCD in Health and Performance Science. Before joining the team at GourmetFuel, she worked in a kitchen catering company, and for Our Lady’s Hospice Harolds Cross and is heavily involved with UCD Boxing Club. Her areas of interest are Vegetarian diets, disease prevention and Sports Nutrition.

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