28 Feb Eat your way to a healthier gut
These days, it’s hard to miss the scores of articles and papers proclaiming the next wonder foods for gut health optimization. Scientists are discovering the central role gut bacteria plays in our health, and though it may be tempting to latch on to each new discovery, there is still much to learn. The headlines come faster than the hard science!
Studies have linked gut bacteria (known as the microbiome) to changes in our mental health, obesity, and to heart health. Many now wonder of course, if it might be possible to alter our gut bacteria to affect other elements of our health.
The consensus is that having a diverse gut microbiota is ideal for overall health, since a healthy variety of bacteria help produce nutrients and essential substances our cells can’t. Did you know that each individual might have 150-250 types of bacteria in their gut? Amazing, isn’t it! True experts in this area however, believe that hacking our gut microbiome is not actually as easy as we’re sometimes led to believe — though at present, it is believed there are four ways we can improve it.
- Probiotics: These are bacteria considered to be part of a healthy microbiome and that can be found in supplements and yogurt containing live bacteria. Be aware however, that adding a few strains of bacteria to your microbiome through a probiotic likely won’t significantly boost your gut health diversity. Think diversity of bacteria rather than just quantity. Studies also suggest that probiotics do not significantly alter the composition of the microbiota in healthy people, but that in sick people, they may improve microbiota function and help restore the microbiota to good health.
- Prebiotics: Prebiotics are actually a source of food for probiotic bacteria to live off (such as inulin). Prebiotics don’t increase the diversity of the microbiome, but they do, according to research, increase specific good gut bacteria.
- Mix it up: Your diet that is. It is thought that eating a diet with lots of variety (not the same thing every day) leads to diverse and healthy microbiome. Vegetables, legumes, beans and fruit are high in fibre and are excellent sources of nutrients for healthy microbiota. Whole grains contain non-digestible carbs that can promote the growth of beneficial bacteria within the gut microbiota.
- Fermented foods: This is one area where hard science hasn’t yet caught up with the headlines touting the benefits of eating fermented foods. Studies point to possible benefits from fermented foods such as kombucha and kefir, but while these foods have been around for thousands of years, there is only a small amount of preliminary evidence to suggest they offer any significant benefit to our gut microbiome. Fermented foods, particularly natural yogurt, do appear to support our gut microbiota by enhancing its function and reducing disease-causing bacteria in the intestines.
It’s easy to find countless articles suggesting one particular food or diet over another, but when it comes to foods or products that promise to change your gut health, it’s best to be skeptical and consult with a dietician or knowledgeable health practitioner before buying into something with little or no benefit — and that could in fact be detrimental to your health.
If you want to optimize your overall health, the DeerFields Clinic team has you covered! Book a Complimentary Consultation to get started or schedule a Comprehensive Health Evaluation.