When it comes to our health, many of us are aware of external factors that can have detrimental effects – such as smoking and alcohol. But did you know that internally, our gut could be a key factor in improving our health and overall wellbeing? Some recent research has explored this theory in more detail, and offers some insight into what we can all do to help ensure a healthy gut.
Microbes and our diet
According to research by Professor Tim Spector from King’s College London that was recently reported in The Guardian, the variety of microbes (microorganisms that live internally in the human body) within our gut can help protect us against a range of health related conditions such as obesity, diseases and allergies. As this type of bacteria breaks down food within our colon, they not only create energy for themselves, but they also produce useful by-products in the form of chemicals. These chemicals have an impact on our mood and our immune system – and therefore it’s important that we look after them.
Further research has found that conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis (MS) are affected by the diversity of the microbes in our gut, and that symptoms can be influenced as a result. For example, Professor Michael Dustin from the University of Oxford suggests that establishing a “more protective microbiota” could be one way to reduce the onset of rheumatoid arthritis. Links have also been found in an MS Society study between the drugs used to treat the condition and microbes in the gut.
Five ways to keep your gut healthy
So with this recent research in mind, combined with the knowledge that microbes are affected by our diet and environment, what can we do to ensure that the microbes in our gut are kept healthy? Christine Bailey, author of “The Gut Health Diet Plan” recommends five key steps towards improving our digestive health and maintaining a healthy gut:
Certain food and drink products, such as alcohol, caffeine, dairy and sugar can all have negative effects on our gut – such as lining irritation, bloating and causing an imbalance in intestinal microbes. Removing them from our diet could prove beneficial in certain cases.
Digestive secretions play an important part in our gut health, but can reduce as we get older. To help boost them, drinking lemon juice in warm water before meals, having a side salad with rocket and watercress and eating pineapple and beetroot can all help.
Increasing and improving the number of friendly bacteria in your gut is important, and you can do this by eating fermented food such as yoghurt and sauerkraut, and fruits and vegetables such as bananas, fennel, apples and leeks.
Help to repair your gut lining from the damage caused by the foods and drinks in step one by eating protein rich foods such as eggs, meat, chicken and fish – ideally between 60-80g a day.
In addition to the previous steps, making changes to your overall lifestyle habits and they way you eat your food can also prove beneficial for a healthy gut. For example, making sure you properly chew your food before swallowing, avoiding eating on the go, late at night and snacking.
To find out more about gut health, visit Love Your Gut.