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I am sure you have heard about gut health, as it is the latest health craze. In the past decade, science uncovered a considerable gap in understanding the gut’s role in our health. From your mood to your risk of diabetes, adjusting your diet to promote your gut health does far more than control uncomfortable digestive symptoms.

Let’s start by understanding the basics.

Your gut is much more than just the organ that digests and absorbs the food you eat. Did you know that the human body has more microbes than there are stars in the Milky Way? Inside the gut, we have trillions of microbes (bacteria, viruses, fungi etc.) that are extremely important for gut health and overall health. 90% of diseases can be linked to the gut and the health of our microbes. So we can say these little guys are significant to our health in many ways.

Follow your gut microbes.

Think of your gut microbes as your children. It would be best to nourish them to be healthy, grow, and do well. We can feel the difference when microbes that provide positive health benefits flourish. When microbes that aren’t beneficial to us thrive, we will often begin to experience some negative symptoms. We, therefore, need to make gut health a priority every day. Research shows that we can positively alter our gut microbes in a matter of days with the help of our diet. The best way to care for our gut health is by feeding these microbes the foods they love. So, in turn, our gut microbes can take care of us by influencing the immune system, nervous system, metabolism, fitness, memory, cognition, mental health and much more.

Pack in the plants.

Dietary fibre is one of the best ways to nourish our gut microbes. We not only need to consume enough (38-25 g per day) but also a range of different types of fibres, which can be achieved by consuming various foods. Every plant’s cell contains fibre, so the best way to get in plenty is by eating plenty of plants, including fruits, vegetables, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains like oats, roller meal Nshima, whole-wheat bread & pasta, barley, and brown rice. Aim for 30 different plant-based foods per week to pack in the variety. It is easier than you think! The truth is that plant-based foods give you the fibre you need and come with a whole host of other beneficial nutrients and chemicals (called polyphenols). These foods raise the beneficial bacteria while lowering the harmful bacteria in your gut.

Prebiotics, probiotics and fermented foods.

Prebiotics are a type of dietary fibre that can get fermented to serve as food for the microbes in our gut. Prebiotics are in whole grains like barley and oats, fruits like berries, vegetables like onions and asparagus and legumes like soybeans. So long as you are working towards plenty of fibre, you will include enough prebiotics for health benefits.

Probiotics, on the other hand, are microbes that can benefit the health of the host (that’s you) when consumed in adequate amounts. Probiotics can be found in fermented foods and are sold as supplements. Remember that taking an over-the-counter probiotic does not guarantee reaping the benefits; the strains and dosages needed are unique to each individual, just like our fingerprints.

Fermented foods and drinks include sour milk, maheu, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, kefir, kombucha and yogurt. They contain live microbes that can be beneficial when consumed regularly. Keep in mind that not all fermented foods are made equal. For example, buying heavily sweetened Maheu will not be helpful, and neither will yoghurts that do not contain the right type and number of beneficial bacteria.

Take home.

Consuming a wide variety of plants and dabbling in fermented foods is one of the best ways to nourish your gut microbes and improve your overall gut health. Start by making minor changes to your everyday diet. Your gut microbes will indeed thank you!

“We need to take care of our gut microbes so they can take care of us – Andrea Hardy.”

So, D., Whelan, K., Rossi, M., Morrison, M., Holtmann, G., Kelly, J.T., Shanahan, E.R., Staudacher, H.M. and Campbell, K.L., 2018. Dietary fibre intervention on gut microbiota composition in healthy adults: a systematic review and meta-
analysis. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 107(6), pp.965-983.
Valdes, A.M., Walter, J., Segal, E. and Spector, T.D., 2018. Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health. BMJ, 361.
Veiga, P., Miret, S. & Jimenez., L. 2019. Danone: The gut microbiome and probiotics – 100 years of shared history 9

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