A healthy gut can play a crucial role in our physical, mental and emotional health. Looking after your gut and the friendly bacteria inside is key to a healthy body and mind.
What is a microbiome?
The gut microbiome is made up of trillions of microorganisms that live in our gut. This community is mostly made up of a range of good and bad bacteria. Research in this area is developing and scientists are beginning to understand how the balance of different types of microorganisms in our gut microbiome determines our overall health.
A healthy microbiome is one that has a wide variety of the good bacteria which can enhance your overall health.
Tips for good gut health
Boost your fibre – Fibre is the part of food that is not digested. Fibre can help you stay fuller for longer, improve cholesterol levels, moderate blood sugar levels and maintain regular bowel movements. Eating a fibre-rich diet can help prevent illnesses such as gallstones, bowel cancer, haemorrhoids and diverticulitis. Another key role for fibre is providing prebiotics to the good bacteria in our guts, essentially feeding them and allowing them to grow and multiply.
You will find fibre in:
- Wholegrains and high-fibre cereals
- Fruits and vegetables, including fresh, frozen, dried and tinned
- Nuts and seeds
- Legumes and lentils
Make friends with probiotics – Probiotics are friendly bacteria and microbes that can be ingested to help restore and build up the good bacteria in your gut. Particularly useful after a tummy bug, bout of diarrhoea or a dose of antibiotics. Natural sources of probiotics include fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, pickles and kombucha. It is important to note that not all fermented foods contain live active cultures, so check the food label.
Reduce discretionary and ultra-processed foods – These foods are high in sugar, salt and saturated fats and don’t do any favours for your gut health. Discretionary foods include deep-fried foods, alcohol, sweet biscuits and cakes, processed meats and sausages, pastries, confectionary and sugar-sweetened drinks. Limit these foods to small quantities and only on special occasions as part of a healthy balanced diet.
Stay hydrated - Choose water as your main drink of choice – not only is it refreshing but it assists with digestion and keeping our bowels working well. Aim for around 8 glasses of water a day and more on particularly hot or physically active days.
Remember, gut health is not only determined by what we eat and drink, but physical activity, stress, sleep, antibiotic use and other lifestyle and environment factors too.
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