Do you realise the power the bacteria in your gut have on your health? The power of the types of ‘good’ bacteria or probiotics in your guts do not only help keep your guts happy but have strong connections to the rest of your body influencing things like the speed of your metabolism, your ability to digest nutrients, the strength of your immunity, your risk of many diseases like heart disease as well as your mental health.
When you have more of these probiotics, they compete with the potentially harmful bacteria which can create havoc for your body’s health. Before you reach for the first probiotic supplement you can find, it is not that simple. Your guts are their happiest when they have many varieties or strains over just a single type of probiotic. It is like a garden, the more variety in the garden, the more beautiful and in the context of your guts the more positive effects on your body. There are certain medical conditions where a specific strain of probiotics may be most beneficial but if you are seeking general optimal health, food sources of probiotics is your best choice.
Try adding these foods and drinks from the list below into your diet. Each have different probiotic strains and benefit your body in different ways:
Yoghurt – read the ingredients list for probiotics like Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. If there are no probiotics listed, the yogurt has none!
- Sourdough bread
The process needed to create your optimal gut health does not end there. Once you have these types of probiotics in your gut keeping them in your guts is another challenge. They are like pets, if you don’t look after and feed them, they will die. Factors which can remove the good bacteria from your guts are if you are on antibiotics you will wipe out not only the bad bacteria but also the good. This means you ultimately need to start your garden of good bacteria all over again. Also, if you have food poisoning, have had gut surgery and suffer conditions like irritable bowel disease and inflammatory bowel disease this will affect the amounts of probiotics in your guts.
Other factors which effect the number of good bacteria in your guts is smoking, which is not a friend to your probiotics and is another reason to quit the habit. Unfortunately, as you get older the number of probiotics can also reduce which is why looking after your diet throughout your life is vital. Ways you can look after your guts are by eating the foods your probiotics need to stay alive and thrive. These are called prebiotics and are found in foods which contain a type of carbohydrate your body can’t use for energy but the good bacteria love. Try including at least 10g of prebiotic foods and drinks every day to feed your tiny friends:
Whole grains – Barley, rye bread, rye crackers, pasta, gnocchi, couscous, wheat bran, wheat bread & oats.
Legumes – Chickpea, lentils, red kidney bean, baked beans & soya beans.
Vegetables – Jerusalem artichokes, chicory, garlic, onion, leek, shallots, spring onion, asparagus, beetroot, fennel, green peas, snow peas, sweetcorn, savoy cabbage & potato skins.
Fruit – Custard apples, avocado, nectarines, persimmon, tamarillo, watermelon, rambutan, grapefruit, pomegranate & dried fruit (e.g. dates, figs).
Nuts/seeds – Cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts & pistachio nuts.
If you eat a diet which is high in animal proteins like beef or chicken or is high in saturated and trans fats found in foods like chips, cakes and chocolate, the bacteria in your gut produce harmful signals which may increase your risk of diseases such as heart disease and other inflammatory disease conditions. Fibre from plant foods (aka the prebiotic foods above) have the opposite effect and are anti-inflammatory to your body’s cells and protect your cells from damage. The take home message here is to eat meat and the sometimes foods in moderation while enjoying plant foods regularly for optimal health.
Look after your guts. Your body and mind will feel the benefits in many ways including your ability to maintain a healthy weight, improved mental health and gut function and ability to absorb nutrients, a stronger immunity and decreased risk of suffering from many diseases and inflammatory conditions.