The Gastrointestinal System
The gastrointestinal system, also known as the gut, houses 70 per cent of our body’s immune system and plays a crucial role in wellbeing and health.
Gut microbiomes are comprised of bacteria that is found in the digestive system and have a significant effect on digestion, hormone regulation, inflammation, metabolism and even mood. Perhaps most interesting is the connection between brain and gut which is both physical and chemical; 90% of serotonin receptors are found in the gut.
When the balance between good and harmful bacteria is disrupted, diseases and mood disorders may occur. Thus keeping a healthy amount of good bacteria is critical to wellbeing.
Effective ways to improve your gut health
Here some of the most effective ways to improve your gut health.
Limit processed foods
Minimising or better yet avoiding processed foods which disrupt the digestive process and encourage bad bacteria will improve both your gut health and waistline. A processed diet includes packaged foods such as soft drinks, sugary or savoury snacks, frozen foods and pastries with additives and preservatives.
It is always advisable to start improving your diet before trying other methods to improve gut health. Whole foods such as legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables is a simple way to encourage good bacteria in your gut. Foods rich in omega-3s, polyphenols, and tryptophan nourish healthy bacteria and improve brain health.
Get plenty of fibre
Another beneficial dietary change you can make is ensuring you consume plenty of fibre. Fibre keeps your gut health balanced as it aids the digestive process in getting rid of toxins and expelling waste. Not only does a lack of fibre affect your gut microbiome, meaning you have less healthy bacteria, but an imbalance of bacteria in the gut can also affect a range of disorders and chronic health conditions.
There are two categories of fibre – insoluble and soluble– which play an essential role in maintaining digestive and gut health. Similarly, resistant starch, a non-digestible prebiotic, helps fuel healthy bacteria in the gut.
By getting a sufficient amount of fibre, you can reduce the risk of bowel and colon cancer, insulin sensitivity, cholesterol and obesity. Some high-fibre foods to include in your diet include fruits, vegetables, beans, chickpeas, rice, nuts, oat bran, seeds, and whole grain carbs.
Probiotics are live bacteria that are beneficial to health because of the positive effect they have on existing bacteria in the gut. Our gut contains a balance of both good and bad bacteria. Some factors that can disrupt the balance of probiotics in your body include taking antibiotics, a poor diet, inadequate fibre, and environmental toxins.
Taking a probiotic supplement after antibiotics is particularly useful, but you can also consume them naturally. Fermented foods like yoghurt, kimchi and kefir naturally contain probiotics.
Prebiotics are types of fibre mainly carbohydrates that stimulate the growth of beneficial probiotics and prevent unhealthy bacteria. Probiotics and prebiotics work together to maintain a healthy digestive system as prebiotic foods provide a nourishing environment for probiotics to grow.
A healthy gut helps prevent inflammation, which is the main contributor to disease and illness. Managing gut health by following these simple tips may improve a range of symptoms associated with allergies, autoimmune disorders, depression and chronic fatigue.