Gut health has become a trending topic for all the good reasons!
With 80% of our immune system residing in it, gut health matters at every age. More so since the wellness of both ‘our body and our brain’ depend on it.
Say hello to the invisible world of mighty Microbiome
Our body contains trillions of bacteria, virus and fungi collectively called as microbiome. The ones living in our gut or digestive system play a significant role in digesting food we eat, and help with absorbing and synthesizing nutrients too.
The old saying ‘you are what you eat’ holds true for the microbiome of our gut.
Imbalanced microbiome = sick body
Balance microbiome = healthy, happy and energetic you
Happy bacteria = Happy Brain/mind
Imbalance in gut microbiome causes:
- Digestive issues (bloating, diarrhea)
- Low immunity
- Chronic fatigue
- Weight fluctuations, obesity
- Skin disorders
- Sugar cravings
- Sleep disorders
- Food sensitivities (gluten or dairy intolerance)
- Stress, anxiety and depression
- Autoimmune conditions
Watch what you eat and avoid these:
- Eating highly processed foods
- Diets high in sugar
- Diets low in fiber
- Chronic stress
- Taking antibiotics
The good news is, even a lifetime of bad eating can be fixed just by changing what you eat.
Yes, the single most important factor for a healthy microbiome is DIET.
Every time you eat, you have an opportunity to create a new population of gut microbiota.
Happiness starts in your belly
There are two ways you can balance and keep the gut bacteria healthy, by adding the live bacteria directly (probiotic foods) and by feeding these bacteria (prebiotic foods).
Probiotic foods = beneficial live bacteria or “live culture” that exist naturally in your gut.
Prebiotic foods = food for probiotics.
Prebiotic foods include plant fibers that are hard to digest and make a perfect food for good bacteria in gut to create healthy, energy producing short-chain fatty acids. These short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) are thought to have numerous health benefits including calcium absorption, reduction of cancer, blood sugar control, improving bowl movement, weight control, and strengthen intestinal lining.
The fermentation process reduces pH in the gut and increase absorption of minerals, stimulates immune function and fights pathogens.
Eating more prebiotic fibers can help the population of good bacteria grow.
Three types of prebiotic foods:
- Soluble fibers – millet, oats, chia seeds, beans, figs, carrot, apple, pumpkin seeds,
- Resistant starches – Oats, millet, pulses, unripe banana, cooked and cooled potato
- Polyphenols – Tea, kiwi fruit, walnuts, chicory roots, citrus peel, red grapes
Probiotic foods – These are the live active culture we can eat directly to increase the good bacteria. Many types of bacteria are classified as probiotic, the common one is lactobacillus (found in curd and other fermented foods).
Adding some of the probiotic foods listed below is the quickest way to reboot your system.
Some probiotic foods:
- Desi curd with live culture and not the store bought heat treated yoghurt
- Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage – in picture above)
- Kefir (fermented milk drink)
- Kombucha (fermented tea)
- Miso (fermented soyabeans)
- Brined green Olives
- Pickle (fermented ones)
- Kvass (fermented beetroot drink – in picture above)
Foods to avoid:
- Highly processed foods
- Sugar and sweet drinks
- Artificial additives
- Junk foods
Simple gut-friendly swaps:
- Try overnight Oats or Millet with curd or kefir (prebiotic + probiotic food – in picture above)
- Overnight curd-rice (cooked rice soaked in water overnight- can be eaten as is or with a little fresh curd, chopped onions and tadka)
- Chaas or buttermilk
- Sugarcane vinegar (used in many recipes in Gujarat and North India)
- Carrot Kanji (made with fermenting carrots, mustard seeds and salt in water)
- Sprinkle chia or flax seeds over your salad and porridge
- Eat brown rice or millet instead of white rice
- Idli, khaman dhoklas (fermented one)
- Fermented vegetable pickles
- Add legumes or pulses for protein
- Include breads and rotis made with sourdough
- Include more of garlic, onion, banana, apples
- Lassi with Desi curd (live culture/bacteria)
- Chicory coffee (chicory root has high prebiotic fibers)
- Aged raw cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, gouda)
- Take time to de-stress and sleep well
Points to remember:
- Probiotic is the good ‘live bacteria’ in your gut and prebiotic is the ‘food’ for probiotic (live bacteria).
- You can create new microbiota just by changing what you eat.
- Fiber is the most crucial ingredient for gut health.
- In general, raw foods have more prebiotic fibers than cooked foods.
- When choosing high-fiber diet, drink plenty of water to avoid constipation.
- The wellness of both your body and your brain depend on your gut health.
- Antibiotics kill good as well as bad bacteria, make sure to eat healthy food to boost microbes during medication.
“Soak up in Sun and drink lukewarm water and turmeric milk atleast once a day to increase immunity” says our expert nutritionist Ms. Payal Talesra
We all have a unique gut flora and there is no right way to eat that works for everyone.
Modern lifestyle and poor diet is the cause for bad gut flora and leaky gut (bacteria and toxins leak through intestinal wall).
The key is to keep supporting our microbiome by eating a balanced diet containing a wide variety of foods to create a diverse microbiota. The more diverse the bacteria, the better immune our body is to external toxins and stresses.
The happy gut will in turn increase our immunity, fight infections and help us live a more longer and healthier life.
Take-home message is – we can’t control the external factors that affect our mental and physical health in our everyday life. But we can surely control over what we put at the end of our fork.
Disclaimer: The following article is my interpretation of information I gathered from my nutritionist, internet references and friends working in the same field.
The views and nutritional advice expressed here are not intended to treat or to prevent and any disease or to replace the advice of your doctor.