Darling’s I decided to re-run of this contributor article by Will Hartfield. During this scary time, our gut health is very important. Taking care of your gut can keep colds and such away. Also, it keeps your tummy feeling great. I do hope you learn something from this, just as I did.
Gut Health = A Healthy You
The gut can be a delicate and often misunderstood organ system. In fact, there are many myths surrounding what’s best for your gut health that the general public believes. However, there’s one thing that’s for certain: a healthy gut biome is one that contributes significantly to your physical health.
With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the gut biome. This will include what a ‘healthy’ gut really means, and how you can improve your gut’s overall functioning.
The Gut’s Biome: What You Need to Know
In simplest terms, the gut’s microbiome is a collection of microbes (including bacteria and fungi) that reside within the body’s gastrointestinal tract. They assist in the digestion and absorption of food ingredients, and a healthy gut biome is important for proper digestive functioning.
But what many people don’t know is that gut health contributes significantly to whole-body health.
A diverse microbiota with a wide array of good bacteria can reduce the risk of certain conditions (including obesity and Type II diabetes) and even ease symptoms in others (such as psoriatic arthritis and atopic eczema). A healthy biome has also been linked to reduced inflammation throughout the body.
Prebiotics vs. Probiotics: Their Role in Gut Health
Probiotics are the good bacteria that are found within the gut and, as such, they are often hailed as the hero of the gut’s microbiome. And while their role should not be downplayed, it’s important to consider their less-known counterpart – prebiotics.
Prebiotics are ingredients that ‘feed’ the good bacteria in the digestive tract. They significantly contribute to the growth and spread of probiotic strains, and this is why they are such a crucial part of a healthy diet.
To put it simply: there cannot be a healthy distribution of probiotics within the gut without the help of prebiotics.
6 Ways to Maintain a Healthy Gut Biome
With the benefits of a healthy gut biome now understood, it’s time to consider what you can do to create and maintain this balance. Here is a look at just six steps to improve your gut health.
1. Increase Your Diet’s Diversity
The composition of your gut’s biome is made up in large part by the types of food you eat. As such, the more diverse your diet the more diverse the bacteria within your digestive tract. But what does this mean for gut health?
As pointed out by Heiman and Greenway in 2016, “[t]he more diverse the diet, the more diverse the microbiome and the more adaptable it will be to perturbations.” This simply means that a more diverse array of bacteria within the gut will contribute to a healthier environment.
So, how can you achieve this?
First, you should focus on eating seasonal produce.
When the produce you consume is as fresh as possible, it contains more nutrients and therefore contributes substantially to your health. Focusing on seasonal produce is also a great way to eat more foods that you wouldn’t otherwise eat.
Second, you should consider non-traditional sources of nutrients.
For example, your current diet may consist largely of proteins and fats from traditional meats such as poultry, beef, and pork. You should add in more diverse sources of proteins including plant-based foods like tofu and lentils and increase your intake of various nut butter’s (such as almond, macadamia, and cashew).
2. Focus on Fiber
Fiber plays a major role in gastrointestinal health as it helps to regulate the bowels. However, an often-overlooked role that fiber plays is its ability to ‘feed’ the good bacteria which then helps it to multiple within the gut.
Fiber, both soluble and insoluble, cannot be digested by the human body. That doesn’t mean that certain elements within the body cannot digest fiber themselves. Take, for example, bacteria.
That’s right – your gut’s bacteria can digest the fiber you eat which then leads it to grow and distribute more thoroughly throughout the digestive tract. As a result, fibrous foods can increase the number of ‘good’ bacteria and create a more diverse environment.
Even further, certain fibrous foods have been shown to contribute to the reduced growth of various disease-causing bacteria. So not only can it support the good bacteria, but it can also thwart the bad.
Some of the best foods, in terms of fiber, to add to your diet are:
- Whole grains
These foods will also contribute to a more diverse diet as discussed above.
3. Balance Your Prebiotics and Probiotics
As mentioned above, there is a key difference between prebiotics and probiotics. But with so many in the health community focusing on probiotics alone, it can be difficult to ensure you’re receiving a balance of both.
Similar to fiber, prebiotics cannot be digested by the gastrointestinal tract but they instead ‘feed’ the probiotics present in the gut. This contributes to the growth and distribution of probiotics throughout the gut and is why you must focus on consuming prebiotics just as much as you do on probiotics.
So, where should you begin?
The best place to start is with fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha. However, even non-fermented foods can contain an array of prebiotic species. These include:
- Tree nuts
And while it’s best to focus on increasing prebiotics foods, you can also make use of probiotic supplements to fill in the gaps. Here are a few to consider:
- Vita Miracle Ultra-30 Probiotics – Best for General Digestive Health
- Renew Life Ultimate Flora Extra Care 30 Billion – Best for Immune Health
- MegaFood MegaFlora – Best for Antibiotic Recovery
- Formulas Nexabiotic Advanced Multi-Probiotic – Best for IBS/IBD Relief
4. Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners seem to be taking over the American diet with their use in many foods including soft drinks, candy, condiments, and more. And while they help to cut down on the calorie content of such foods, they can also contribute negatively to your health.
One such they have a negative impact on your health is in the gut where they contribute to the spread of bad bacteria.
Sweeteners such as sucralose have been shown to increase the numbers of bad bacteria in the gut which leads to poor gut health. This can even contribute to inflammation throughout the body and other maladies.
This is why you should look to avoid artificial sweeteners at all costs and if you must replace the sweeteners you use with real sugar and natural sweeteners such as honey. So, which ingredients should you look out for? They include:
- Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K)
- Luo Han Guo fruit extracts
- Steviol glycosides
You’ll also want to look out for the all-encompassing ‘natural flavors’ ingredient which is often found in ‘healthier’ alternatives such as flavored seltzer waters. These, too, can contain artificial sweeteners.
5. Limit Carbs and Sugar
Artificial sweeteners are a major culprit when it comes to multiplying the ‘bad’ bacteria, but they aren’t the only thing you should be concerned with.
Carbohydrates and simple sugars make up a large part of the Western diet. However, their intake has been shown to increase bad bacteria within the gut microbiome and even reduce the levels of good bacteria.
That’s not to say that you need to cut all carbohydrates and sugars from your diet. They can have their place when eaten in moderation.
You should look, though, to replace them with proteins and plant-based foods as much as possible. This balance will contribute to a healthier, more diverse gut.
6. Take Your Vitamins
While it’s best to get your vitamins and minerals from a whole-foods diet, it’s not uncommon for there to be gaps. This is especially true for individuals with certain medical conditions (such as Chron’s or Ulcerative Colitis) and those who live in areas with less diverse food options.
Fortunately, you can take control of this with a simple addition to your routine: dietary supplements.
As such, the use of a daily supplement can help to support your gut’s biome among other benefits.
When you want to live your best life and improve general bodily health, there is one factor that will play the most significant role: your gut’s biome.
A diverse microbiome will support the growth of good bacteria (and the reduction of bad) and significantly impact the way your body digests and processes nutrients and minerals. This is why diversity is such an important part of maintaining a healthy biome.
The six ways above will get you started on creating a beneficial gut environment and as with anything health-related, the sooner you start the better off you’ll be.
Do you have any questions about gut health? I know it’s a scary time, let’s help each other!
Will started Hairguard (previously called Hair Loss Revolution) in 2012 and has been growing the business into what it is now. He’s the lead researcher and product developer. He has a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Birmingham and is based in London.