Updated: Jan 23
The gut is a place in your digestive intestines. The gut microbiome must be populated with healthy bacterias, which are essential to your immune system, heart, weight and many other aspects of health.
The gut microbiome is located in a “pocket” of your large intestine called the cecum with more than 1,000 species of bacteria which can weigh up to 2–5 pounds, some of which are good, while others can cause diseases. It’s essential to take care of your gut microbiome because it is directly responsible for many body functions, such as affecting the central nervous system to brain health, communicating with immune cells, and helping digest and absorb nutrients better. Some common problems that can arise with an unhealthy gut microbiome are bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, food intolerance etc.
To improve your gut health, try the following methods below:
What to Do:
Eat more fibre:
Fibre is commonly found in whole grains, vegetables and fruits. When your body digests fibre, it produces short-chain fatty acids. This is especially important for gut health because a significant source of energy for colon cells, a type of cell helpful for absorbing nutrients from food to transport it to other organs of the body to carry out their functions. Furthermore, eating more whole grains and vegetables contains plentiful more nutrients and fibre, which can help prevent weight gain because fibre takes longer to digest, keeping you fuller for longer and helping to reduce your daily calorie intake. When your calorie intake is below your daily metabolic rate -- the number of calories you burn in one day -- it will lead to weight loss.
2. Lower Stress Levels and Increasing Sleep
High levels of stress will increase the fluid mobility and fluid secretion of the gut, leading to repeated urination or the more common description: bloating. When excess fluids are secreted from the surrounding tissues of the gut, it can lead to a feeling of abdominal fullness, making the stomach look very round. On the other hand, continuous stress can cause constipation. When we are stressed, epinephrine is released, which causes the body to divert blood flow from the intestines toward vital organs, such as the heart, lungs, and brain. As a result, intestinal movement slows down, and constipation can occur. Additionally, stress can cause corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF) to be released in the bowels, which may directly slow down your intestines and become inflamed.
Probiotics are a group of beneficial bacterias that secretes protective substances into the intestines, helping to fight any pathogen (disease-causing organism) to maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Probiotics are found in many fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, tempeh, miso, and kefir. In one study, researchers found that taking probiotics reduced antibiotic-associated diarrhea by 42% (Hempel S). Another review synthesizing 35 studies found that probiotics can reduce the duration of infectious diarrhea up to 25 hours (Allen SJ). Interestingly, probiotics have also been linked to improved emotional well-being. A review of 15 human studies found supplementing with Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains for 1–2 months can improve anxiety, depression, autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and memory. However, this topic still needs more research to be fully confirmed.
What to Avoid
High sugar, fat and processed foods:
In today’s world, it’s hard to avoid processed, high-sugar, and high-fat foods in your diet because they are hidden in our everyday foods. For example, your cup of ‘refreshing lemonade’ can contain up to 25g of sugar in 250mL. That’s 10% of what your drinking! Diets containing high sugar and high-fat foods can reduce the number of beneficial bacteria in the human gut, resulting in an imbalance of bacteria in the microbiome and increased cravings for sugar, which further damage the gut—a typical negative cycle. Too much sugar can also cause inflammation and decrease the capacity of our ‘gut’ (epithelial) cells to absorb nutrients and reduce our mucosal immunity -- one of the most significant contributors to our overall health and immune system.
In conclusion, the gut microbiome is vital to our overall immune system, body functions, and for being happiness. To incorporate more of these gut-healthy foods into your diet, try some of the recipes below! Your tummy will thank you!
Hempel S, Newberry SJ, Maher AR, Wang Z, Miles JN, Shanman R, Johnsen B, Shekelle PG. Probiotics for the prevention and treatment of antibiotic-associated diarrhea: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA. 2012 May 9;307(18):1959-69. doi: 10.1001/jama.2012.3507. PMID: 22570464.
Allen SJ, Martinez EG, Gregorio GV, Dans LF. Probiotics for treating acute infectious diarrhea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Nov 10;2010(11):CD003048. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003048.pub3. Update in: Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2020 Dec 8;12:CD003048. PMID: 21069673; PMCID: PMC6532699.