Did you know that our gut bacteria and gut microbiome can influence our overall health? This includes Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), heart disease, our immune system, mental health, body weight and sleep patterns.
What is the Gut Microbiome?
The gut microbiome is very complex and can vary from person to person. It is a term used to describe the large and diverse group of microorganisms, also sometimes referred to as stomach bacteria or gut bugs, that live in our gastrointestinal tract. The diversity and amount of these bacteria increase throughout the gut from the stomach, to the small intestine and then large intestine or colon. Did you know that your colon has the most amount of gut bacteria?
Diet and the Gut Microbiome
Our diet significantly affects the makeup and diversity of our gut microbiome. The composition of our gut microbiome can begin to change in as little as one day after changing our diet. This can influence our overall health by the products that are made when the bacteria in our colon breaks down or ferments the nutrients that we have eaten in our diet.
These are mainly certain types of carbohydrates called fructans (including inulin and oligofructose) and fibre (including resistant starch, wheat bran, beta-glucan and psyllium). These are also known as prebiotics and produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). These help to protect our gastrointestinal tract, speed up repair of any damage in our gastrointestinal tract and reduce inflammation.
It is also important to remember that although diet has a major impact on the gut microbiome, some medications and conditions can also alter its composition. These include constipation, IBS, inflammatory bowel disease and some nutritional supplements.
The Importance of Fibre
Fibre is an important nutrient in improving our overall health. Adequate fibre intakes have been shown to decrease a person’s risk of developing chronic diseases such as bowel cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Fibre can also help with making us for fuller for longer after meals and plays a vital role in making sure our gut is working normally and keeping our gastrointestinal system healthy.
Eating enough fibre has been shown to;
Decrease cholesterol levels.
Control our blood glucose levels.
Decrease loose stools, manage diarrhoea and the symptoms associated with diarrhoea such as stomach pain, cramps and wind.
Increase the number of good bacteria in our gut.
Fibre is the edible parts of plants that are unable to be digested, or broken down, and absorbed in our small intestine. These are then either partly or fully broken down by the bacteria in our large intestine.
In Australia, it is currently recommended that women consume 25g of fibre per day and men consume 30g of fibre per day. However, most Australians currently do not consume enough fibre.
For those with IBS, it can be difficult to eat enough fibre when following a low FODMAP diet because they are eating less of these carbohydrates that contain fibre and are also natural prebiotics. Prebiotics are known for promoting “good bacteria” in our gut which assists with improving our overall gut health. Prebiotics have been scientifically shown to impact the gut microbiome in healthy people.
Follow My 5 Easy Steps to Keep Your Gut Healthy Like a Pro!
STEP 1: Increase Your Intake of Fruit
Try and eat at least 2 pieces of low FODMAP fruit each day such as strawberries, unripe bananas, grapes, rockmelon, pineapple, oranges and kiwifruit. Choose a variety of different types and colours of fresh fruit that are in season and try using fruit for snacks and desserts. They are a good source of vitamins, including vitamin C, and folate and provide potassium, dietary fibre and carbohydrates in the form of natural sugars. Edible skins are particularly high in fibre, but fibre is also in the fruit flesh.
STEP 2: Increase your intake of Vegetables
Try and eat at least 2.5 cups of low FODMAP vegetables each day such as whole broccoli, spinach, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, red capsicum, eggplant and bok choy. Include a variety of different types and colours including low FODMAP beans and legumes. Try new ways of cooking with vegetables like roasting, baking, barbequing and stir-frying. Including these in your diet can provide a range of nutrients as they are a good source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre.
STEP 3: Include a wide variety of wholegrain breads, cereals and pastas in your diet
These provide more dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals than refined or white versions of grain (cereal) foods. Eating wholegrain and/or high fibre cereal foods will not only keep your gut bacteria happy but can help reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, excessive weight gain, and some cancers. Low FODMAP options include spelt and gluten, wheat and rye free products.
STEP 4: Limit your Intake of Red Meat
Great substitutes are poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans. It is currently recommended that no more that 455g of cooked lean red meat is eaten per week as eating larger amounts can be linked with a higher risk of developing bowel cancer. Eating large amounts of protein from animal sources has also been shown to alter our gut microbiome. This can decrease the amount and diversity of the gut bacteria found in our gastrointestinal tract.
STEP 5: Make Sure you Drink Plenty of Water
Drinking enough water helps make sure that we do not get dehydrated and can also assist with decreasing our risk of constipation. You may have heard a lot about how much water we should drink, such as 8 cups or 2 litres per day, however as we are all different, there is no one amount that is recommended for everyone. The best way to judge if you are drinking enough water is by looking at the colour of your urine. Dark urine likely means that you may be dehydrated and have not had enough fluid, while clear urine means you may be drinking too much. Aim for a pale-yellow colour as this is likely to indicate you are well hydrated.
If you would like some support to take control of your IBS, click here to watch my program video to learn how I can help you eliminate your bloating, constipation and diarrhoea WITHOUT feeling confused or overwhelmed.
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