There are many conversations in the nutrition community surrounding gut health and how the gut can affect the rest of the body. We know that the small intestine is the site of nutrient absorption, and that the foods we eat play a role in how we feel and how our body functions. However, we are still researching and discovering how the gut can affect other areas of our health.
Individuals have their own unique microbiome, which refers to the mixture of bacteria found on and within one’s body. Your microbiome begins to build while still inside the mother’s womb and starts to change once you’re born. Although our first bacteria come from our mothers, studies show that environment and diet play a more significant role in the development and changes that occur within our microbiome. We must actively take care of our gut bacteria as they can become easily damaged or destroyed. We can ensure a healthy microbiome through taking prebiotics and probiotics, eating fermented foods, and limiting our sugar intake.
Prebiotics are fiber rich plant foods such as garlic, onions, asparagus, and apples, which help to stimulate growth from beneficial bacteria within the gut. These foods have resistant starch, meaning as they pass though the body, they can’t be digested and instead they act as food for microbes. Probiotics are different in that they are living organisms you consume. They are found in the form of fermented foods such as kimchi, sourdough, and kombucha. Prebiotics and probiotics work hand in hand to generate a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut, which is why it’s so important to make sure we are getting both!
While we work to support our gut by giving it what it needs to be strong, sugars that we consume can easily cancel out our efforts by throwing off our balance of bacteria in the gut. Over consumption of sugar in the diet can lead to fungal yeast growth known as Candida. This condition can be difficult to overcome, as it requires specific food restrictions in order to not feed the microbes you are trying to get rid of, followed by promoting growth of beneficial gut microbes.
There is significant evidence showing health benefits when we take care of our gut that include lower rates of intestinal and colorectal cancer, improved digestion, and clearer skin. We can truly make a difference in our overall health and how we feel physically and mentally by choosing nutrient rich products to put into our bodies each day.