Our guts can be extremely temperamental. We may feel fine one minute but then bloated and gassy the next which can leave us feeling pretty uncomfortable. Maintaining a happy gut is a little more complex than just ‘healthy eating’ - it comes down to bacteria.
Our digestive system is home to 100 trillion bacteria and microflora - around 500 different strains in fact and requires a delicate balance of good and bad bacteria in order to function effectively. Beneficial strains of gut bacteria assist with our body’s digestion, vitamin absorption, hormone regulation, immune response and toxin elimination. When there is an imbalance between good and bad bacteria, we experience bloating, gas, abdominal cramping, reflux, constipation or indigestion. Poor gastrointestinal health has also been found to have a direct impact on our mood and memory, so much so that scientists have even refered to the stomach as our ‘second brain’!
So what should we consider to maintain good gut heath?
What am I eating?
Though we may incorporate plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in our diet, hidden nasties in foods such as artificial sweeteners, genetically modified produce and processed carbs can have an adverse effect on the gut's bacterial balance. High fructose corn syrup for example is particularly harmful as it feeds bad bacteria and is found in a large number of ‘healthy’ cereals, salad dressings, juices, breads, sweetened yoghurts and nutrition bars. By analysing nutrition labels, we can begin to eliminate foods from our diet that contain these problematic ingredients.
To increase the good bacteria in our gut, we should turn to probiotics which are live bacteria and yeasts naturally occuring in a number of foods. These work wonders for the digestive system and examples include sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, kefir, kimchi and home made yoghurt. The bacteria in these foods help break down certain carbs our bodies have difficulty digesting on their own. They also help to keep our stomach acidic, preventing harmful bacteria from growing. Try to eat a small portion of fermented foods once a day, either as a snack or served as a tasty side dish or salad addition.
Kombucha me up
Kombucha is also a great way to keep our gut happy. The natural fermentation process of this health drink means it's full of live bacteria and yeast which line the digestive tract and assist with nutrient absorption. For those who don’t like their kombucha overly sweet, we recommend the Organic Raw Kombucha by Herbs Of Life, or Wild Kombucha’s Native Lime variety for an added punch!
If in doubt, ask
Restoring the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut may be a little tricky at first, but will leave you feeling much more comfortable and energised once you find a method that works. Also don't be afraid to see a certified nutritionist who will be able to advise on the right nutrition and supplement program for you.
Happy gut, happy life :)