What's your gut got to do with it?

Published on 19 June 2019


You may have heard the term gut microbiome. This term refers to all the bacteria that live in the digestive tract of humans. Approximately 95% of the gut bacteria are found in the large intestine and they live in ‘communities’. Some ‘communities’ are helpful to our health and are known as ‘good’ bacteria, whilst others are ‘bad’ bacteria and may give rise to a number of chronic health conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease and even depression.

The amount of ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ bacteria in our gut is largely dependent on the foods we eat as well as our environment. For instance, stress and antibiotics may harm the ‘good’ bacteria in our gut, therefore allowing the ‘bad’ bacteria to increase their numbers.  In addition to this, there has been some emerging research into the role of the ‘bad’ gut bacteria on obesity, Lymphodaema (cancer of the white cells) and stomach cancer.

The ‘good’ bacteria not only helps digestion, but it also helps produce Vitamin B and K which, in turn, help to keep our immune system healthy. Of course, additional research is needed but it is ‘food for thought’ that what we eat can impact our risks of developing chronic illnesses.

There are a number of dietary and lifestyle habits that we can adopt to improve the health of our gut bacteria. Here are a few tips:

·         Incorporate fermented foods into the diet such as miso, kefir and sauerkraut

·         Consume fruit, vegetables and wholegrain carbohydrates.  These foods are known as prebiotics as they contain a high amount of fibre. These prebiotic foods ‘feed’ the gut bacteria and, therefore, increase their numbers

·         Limit highly process foods and foods containing a large amount of sugar. These foods may stimulate the growth of ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut microbiome

·         Limit artificial sweeteners as they may harm the gut microbiota

·         Try a probiotic supplement or yoghurt. Probiotics are live microorganisms which are found in capsule form, liquid form or in yoghurts. There is mixed reviews of the use of probiotics, however it might be useful in some cases such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or other gut-related illnesses


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