It’s becoming more evident that the body’s gut microbes – collectively known as the microbiome – are essential for improving not only our digestive health but overall health and wellbeing, including mental health. The benefits of maintaining gut health have been known for a long time – in fact Hippocrates, father of modern medicine, extolled the virtues of pro-active gut care more than 2000 years ago. While his assertion that ‘all’ diseases begin in the gut is now known to be somewhat of an oversimplification, it first identified the importance of the digestive tract to overall health.
The diversity of the microbiome (the balance of different, individual, good and bad bacteria in the gut) is said to be the secret to a healthy gut microbiome – rich and diverse microbes in the gut create a resilient and capable community. Backed by a multitude of studies, gut microbiomes which have decreased diversity of bacteria have been associated with a variety of health issues, ranging from digestive problems and obesity to autoimmune conditions. So, the question stands – how do we increase gut microbiome diversity for better overall health?
The consumption of gut-friendly foods such as fibre-rich nutrition and fermented products help restore harmony to the gut microbiome. Diet has an impact on the microbes in the gut because the food doesn’t just feed you, it also feeds the trillions of bacteria that live in your gut.
So, here are six gut-friendly foods that can be consumed to nourish good gut bacteria and in turn, keep the body healthy and happy.
Versatile and popular, bananas work brilliantly to restore harmony in the gut’s ecosystem. Green bananas are a rich source of prebiotics, especially resistant starch, which passes through the small intestine intact, is fermented in the large intestine and as a result beneficial short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are produced by gut bacteria. SCFAs are the major nutrients produced by bacterial fermentation, powering the cells that line the colon and feeding other beneficial bacteria and exerting several health benefits for the host. Bananas are also rich in vitamin C and B6 and are a great source of magnesium and potassium which helps reduce inflammation, restore normal bowel function and lower blood pressure.
Asparagus is nutrient-packed, fibre-rich and high in prebiotic Fructooligosaccharides (FOS). It feeds the good bacteria that live in the gut, and is a very good source of beneficial vitamins and minerals such as folate, vitamins A, C, E and K. It’s a source of glutathione – an antioxidant which helps break down harmful free radicals –which is also vital for fighting certain cancers such as bone, breast and colon.
Walnuts are packed with fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, phenols, and prebiotic compounds that support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. In fact, a 2018 study on the effect of walnuts on gastrointestinal microbiota discovered that people who consumed walnuts every day for three weeks boosted the number of butyrate-producing gut bacteria – a beneficial SCFA which reduces inflammation in the colon and helps maintain a healthy gut.
A long-time gut healing food, oats have been consumed since prehistoric times. Oats are packed with healthy unsaturated fats, protein, vitamins and minerals, but the content of dietary fibre is what really makes them stand out. Oats contain resistant starch and water-soluble fibres that support digestion when fermented by intestinal bacteria. A recent study suggested eating a bowl of porridge oats a day could alter gut microbial functions.
Dark chocolate is a valuable source of polyphenol compounds which exert antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The compounds also help increase two types of positive gut bacteria – lactobacillus and bifidobacteria. Cocoa beans are also a source of flavanols, which have been shown to significantly affect the growth of select gut bacteria in humans, offering powerful prebiotic benefits for improved gut health.
Gut health foods are gradually becoming available as a supplement or added ingredient in food. For instance, Bimuno®, a unique prebiotic developed by Clasado, is a blend of galactooligosaccharides (GOS) which enhance the production and activity of good gut bacteria. The supplement can increase levels of good gut bacteria, specifically bifidobacteria, within just 7 days.
The range comprises three products designed for individuals who are proactive about their digestive and immune health and has been shown to be highly effective in individuals whose bacterial balance has been altered by triggers such as stress, ageing or travel abroad. All the products in the range contain unique and patent-protected second-generation GOS developed by Clasado and have been carefully tested in independent scientific studies.
These foods demonstrate that the right nutrition helps boost gut health and overall wellbeing and show that it is possible to encourage the development of a diverse community of gut microbes through diet and nutrition.