•Our guts are full of a diverse range of microorganisms that communicate with your brain through hormones and nerves.
•Processed foods increase the levels of bad bacteria in your gut.
More and more research is indicating, that an unhealthy gut can lead to a series of health and lifestyle complications.
In fact, our guts are full of a diverse range of microorganisms that communicate with your brain through hormones and nerves.
So, how can we better start taking care of our gut? We asked Dr. Wincate Wangari, a Nanyuki-based Nutritionist, how we can improve our gut function.
“Some experts refer to your gut as the second brain, because the two organs work closely together and diet is always the best way to start,” Wangari told the Star on Tuesday.
Eat more foods rich in fiber
Wangari said that steadily increasing more fiber in your diet helps the waste to move smoothly while encouraging healthy gut bacteria.
“It is when fiber begins to ferment in the large intestine that good gut bacteria is produced and harmful bacteria is suppressed.”
Limit your intake of processed foods.
Studies show that processed foods increase the levels of bad bacteria in your gut.
“Heavily processed foods are often high in sugar, fat, and empty calories. Consuming lots of these foods has long been linked to an increased risk of a wide variety of health problems including diabetes, obesity, elevated cholesterol, depression and high blood pressure,” she said.
“Eat what serves the best support to your diverse gut health. If you are feeding your gut with processed and unhealthy foods you are directly feeding bad bacteria, hence inviting them to wreak havoc in your gut and body.”
Wangari urged replacing junk and fast foods with fruits and vegetables which positively impact the gut.
“Fruits get digested in the intestines, and that is where the nutrients are absorbed. They are a good source of vitamins and minerals, including folate, vitamin C, and potassium, and an excellent source of dietary fiber,” she said.
Drink more water.
Adding water to your diet has been shown to bring balance to the mucosal lining of the intestines, as well as the balance of good bacteria in the gut.
Water helps to break down food during digestion, so drinking it after or during a meal is actually recommended.
Have a diverse diet.
A diet containing a wide variety of foods can lead to a more diverse microbiome, you can get probiotics naturally from your diet or you can supplement.
Studies have shown that consuming prebiotic foods is an excellent way to support your gut microbiome, as it gives the good microorganisms things to consume, boosting their populations so there is no space for the bad microorganisms to get a foothold.
Eat more fruits and vegetables.
The microbial species found in fruits and vegetables are much more than one can get from probiotics (beneficial bacteria) supplements.
“Eating onions, berries, oats, legumes, fermented foods like natural yogurt, nuts and seeds can be a good way to start on the probiotics,” she said.
“It is worth noting that the effects of probiotics and fermented foods are transient, so if stopped, the benefit will go away.”
Apart from food, Wangari noted the benefits of exercising as it reduces stress and improves circulation.
“When you are under stress or anxiety, some hormones and chemicals enter your digestive tract and can interfere with your digestion. Some chemicals have a negative effect on your gut flora,” she said.
As you exercise, also remember to have a good night’s rest.
Studies have shown that a healthy sleep cycle helps the body produce the hormones melatonin and prolactin, which have been found to improve the good bacteria in the intestines and help digestion.