healthy tummy

Improve gut health: What to eat and what to avoid?

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Gut health refers to the balance between good and bad bacteria that reside in your digestive tract. Bad gut health occurs when the bad bacteria overrun the good bacteria so, to improve gut health you need to consume the right type of foods that will help good bacteria stay strong and multiply. It is important to understand that recent studies have shown the link between gut health and a variety of different health conditions. To name the least, bad gut health has shown to cause bloating, gas, diarrhoea, constipation and IBS.

In the next few minutes you will discover information that’ll help improve your gut health. However, if you haven’t read our other article on how it affects your body then this might be a good time to read it so you have the full understanding as to why it is important.

Foods to eat to improve gut health?

fruit and vegetable backet

1.  Eat Foods high in Fiber to feed healthy bacteria

Eating foods rich in fiber is one of the best ways to support a healthy gut. Good bacteria love to feed on fiber. Fiber may help with the following:

  • Ion Absorption
  • Intestinal Barrier Function
  • Immune System regulation
  • Oxidative stress
  • Intestinal Mobility

Starchy fiber is mostly found in vegetables and carbohydrates. Some great sources include: asparagus, bananas, spinach, beans, oats, artichoke and whole grains.

2. Consume Fermented foods to promote a healthy gut

Fermented foods are a natural source of probiotics which are great in preventing gut inflammation and other intestinal problems. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good and friendly to the gut which are normally used to restore the balance between good and bad bacteria (NHS, 2018). Fermented foods include:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Miso
  • Kombucha
  • Pickles
  • Soybean
  • Natto
  • Mozzarella and cottage cheese

The above foods are a natural source of probiotics which make them super healthy for your gut.

3. Eat Yogurt for probiotics

There are plenty of yogurts that have been enriched in probiotics which are filled with friendly bacteria. We recommend the following yogurts that may help with improve gut health:

  • Actimel
  • Yakult
  • Yeo Valley
  • KoKo
  • Kefir

4. Drink milk to get more friendly bacteria

Human milk and goats milk contain lysozyme and lactoferrin which are anti-microbial compounds that act to improve intestinal health by managing the balance of gut microbiome. Gut Microbiome is a layer of micro-organisms that covers the inside of your intestine (Maga et al, 2013). There was a study that used human milk to improve intestinal health. It was reported that thanks to the anti-microbial compounds, bacterial-induced intestinal problems reduced. It was the same study that found that goats milk contains the same compounds. So, drink up!

5. Eat sourdough breads to obtain more healthy bacteria

These type of breads have been fermented slowly using a range of bacteria that are found naturally, and the lengthy fermentation process allows the friendly bacteria to break down proteins that may be the cause of digestive problems.  If you are ever craving a sandwich, it may be worth eating a sourdough one which can be found in most supermarkets. By eating the sourdough bread that’s rich in healthy bacteria will help with digestion and minimise cramping and bloating.

Foods to avoid to improve and maintain a healthy gut

onions, and garlic

1. Minimise sugars in your diet

Sugars and artificial sweeteners encourage bad bacteria to grow, it seems that they enjoy feeding on sweet things. There was a study done in 2015 which showed that consuming high sugar diet causes negative changes to the gut microbiome, and as a result it may affect our brain. As you’d have seen in the previous article, bad gut microbiome affects our brain communication which in turn can affect our mood, cause depression, anxiety, and even poor cognitive function (Magnusson et al, 2015).

2. Limit animal products

Animal products, like meats, dairy and eggs are packed with nutrients and filled with health benefits. However, to promote good gut health it is important to limit these where you can or at least eat them in moderation. A study has shown that consuming a diet high in animal proteins causes negative changes to gut microbiome, and may lead to bowel inflammation (Singh et al, 2017).

Another study done in 2010 looked into the effects of diet composition on gut microbiome. The study compared gut microbiome between children who ate animal proteins and children who ate more carbohydrates that were high in fiber. It was found that children who ate more fiber had healthier gut bacteria compared to children who ate animal proteins (Fillippo et al, 2010).

3.  Avoid High FODMAP foods

A FODMAP diet is normally prescribed to people who have bowel issues and bowel inflammation. During this diet you are supposed to avoid high FODMAP foods.

F- Fermentable

O-Oligosaccharide

D – Disaccharides

M – Monosaccharides

P – Polyols

The above refers to fermentable foods that are high in sugars, antioxidants and sweeteners. These may include foods like asparagus, eggs, artichoke, garlic, onions and fresh beetroot. Instead, you should focus on consuming Low FODMAP foods. Check the infographic below.

4. Avoid antibiotics

Antibiotics are still under investigation but it is becoming apparent that these not only kill the bad bacteria but also the helpful ones. If you have a medical condition that requires antibiotics then it is understandable to take them. However, some people consume antibiotics without actually realising it because what people don’t know is that plenty of farmers feed antibiotics to animals to reduce risk of infections.

This is another reason why you should eat animal products in moderation, when you ingest antibiotics when you don’t need them, you little micro-organisms may struggle to protect your body and keep it healthy when the antibiotics start to kill them off. It also provides opportunities for bad bacteria to spawn. So, when you next decide to have any animal proteins, check the labels or check that the animal was under free range conditions.

5.Avoid Fried foods

Fried foods, especially ordered from takeaways, are normally high in saturated and trans fats. Saturated and trans fats are unhealthy for your heart and general health, they are also difficult to digest. As a result, you may experience bloating, gas, cramping, or constipation and diarrhoea. Limiting saturated and trans fats will only work in your favour.

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Conclusion

In conclusion, every body is different so it is fair to say that we can all respond differently to the foods we eat. So, although the foods to eat and avoid are recommended above, it is important to know that you might need to experiment with these. For instance, eat a low FODMAP diet and see how you get on but if any symptoms are not reduced or eliminated then it’s clearly not working for you. Then, try something else.

This article was intended to help you get the best your diet. Let us know below in the comments what method are you going to try! We are interested to know.

References

Canani, R., Costanzo, M., Leone, L., Pedata, M., Meli, R. and Calignano, A. (2011). Potential beneficial effects of butyrate in intestinal and extraintestinal diseases. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3070119/ [Accessed 27 Dec. 2019].

Fillippo, C., Cavalieri, D., Paola, M., Ramazzotti, M., Poullet, J., Massart, S., Collini, S., Pieracchini, G. and Lionetti, P. (2010). Impact of diet in shaping gut microbiota revealed by a comparative study in children from Europe and rural Africa. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2930426/ [Accessed 27 Dec. 2019].

Maga, E., Weimer, B. and Murray, J. (2013). Dissecting the role of milk components on gut microbiota composition. 4, [online] 2. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3595073/ [Accessed 27 Dec. 2019].

Magnusson, K., Hauck, L., Jeffrey, B., Elias, V., Humphrey, A., Nath, R., Perrone, A. and Bermudez, L. (2015). Relationships between diet-related changes in the gut microbiome and cognitive flexibility. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25982560 [Accessed 27 Dec. 2019].

nhs.uk. (2019). Probiotics. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/probiotics/ [Accessed 27 Dec. 2019].

Singh, R., Chang, H., Yan, D., Lee, K., Ucmak, D., Wong, K., Abrouk, M., Farahnik, B., Nakamura, M., Zhu, T., Bhutani, T. and Lia, W. (2017). Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5385025/ [Accessed 27 Dec. 2019].

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