Our gut! Hardly a dinnertime conversation. But it is gaining momentum to be just that. It is a hot topic in scientific research and for good reason. We have sayings that describe how it can affect us: have you ever used the saying ‘I have a gut feeling’, ‘gut instinct’ or ‘listen to your gut’ when we really want to know what’s true or to make the right decision? Did you know that a healthy and happy belly means a bucket load of benefits including more energy and vitality, boosted moods and improved immunity?
Everything we eat and drink passes through our gut along the gastrointestinal tract (GI). Simple enough, right? But deep inside your gut there are over 40 trillion wee creatures (bugs we like to call microbes comprised of fungi, bacteria and single cell organisms) all hard at work along your GI tract helping digest and metabolise your meals, making essential nutrients and protecting you from illness and increasing your immunity.
It turns out there’s a reason food tastes so good. You’re supposed to enjoy it—slow down and savour it, not just get it to your belly as quickly as possible. Chewing your food thoroughly is actually the first step in the complex process of digestion, and if you glaze over it, just chewing the minimum amount of times necessary to get the food down your oesophagus, you’re actually compromising this process. And it’s a mistake many people make.
If you try to imagine swallowing a whole piece of pizza, it’s easy to see why chewing is necessary. But besides breaking up your food into manageable chunks, there’s another good reason to put in the effort and chew. The saliva that coats your food as you chew actually contains digestive enzymes that begin to digest your food before you even swallow it. The enzymes alpha-amylase and lingual lipase begin digesting carbohydrates and fats, reducing the amount of work for which the gut will be responsible. From there trillions of organisms join in the effort so that the food can be broken down enough, so we can absorb the nutrients we want and get rid of the rest.
But if food fragments are swallowed un-chewed, not only do nutrients remain locked in the fragments, but these fragments create an environment in the colon that encourages digestive distress—bacterial overgrowth, gas, and bloating. Sound familiar anyone?
Every time we eat, it’s like feeding our inner garden. This garden is filled with bugs that determine more about your health, immunity and your emotional and mental wellbeing than you ever imagined! With todays ‘modern diet’ it tends to be made up of highly processed, high-sugar, high-fat, low-fibre foods. ‘Insert favourite fast-food joint here’. The bad bacteria thrive on these types of foods. Unfortunately, you might be feeding the bad guys (and your taste buds), but you also starve the good, beneficial ones too. Getting your gut bacteria healthy is one of the most important things you can do to get and stay healthy. If your gut bacteria are sick, so are you!
If you want to fix your health and improve your immunity, you need to start with your gut. This place houses at least 70 percent of all cells that make up your immune system. You may dismiss seemingly unrelated diseases that are actually caused by gut issues. Allergies, mood disorders, autoimmune diseases eg irritable bowl syndrome, chronic fatigue, and acne just to name a few.
In one study by E Le Chatelier with 123 non-obese and 169 obese Danish individuals, researchers found that people with low amounts of healthy bacteria had more marked overall fat, insulin resistance, cholesterol and inflammation compared with healthy-gut folks. They also noted the obese people with lower healthy bacteria gained more weight over time.
There is good news, every bite of food you take, you can change your gut microbiome. Feed and fertilise your inner garden with whole and fresh foods to help your good gut bacteria thrive.
In today’s diet we lack a lot of fibre, this is what the good guys love. Think of fibre as a shower for your insides. When we have a diet high in fibre, the good guys can do their job - and your digestion, immune function, mental function, and even your mood reap the benefits. We want to be aiming for at least 25 grams of total fibre per day for females and 30 grams for males. If this seems like a lot to you, you might want to look into a high-quality supplement such as Fibremax™.
Another great way to help with a healthy, happy belly is increasing your probiotics. These are tiny microorganisms that your gut loves, especially your digestive system. Probiotics are often called ‘good bacteria’ because they help keep your gut healthy. You can supplement probiotics with Alpha Lipid™ Lifeline™ and they occur naturally in fermented foods such as cultured milk eg yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha or miso etc.
According to A. Venketeshwer Rao, MSc, PhD, professor emeritus in the department of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto, “It’s the predominance of the beneficial bacteria referred to as the probiotic bacteria, such as bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria, that ensure good health and prevent diseases of the gut and other organs in the body.”
When we eat, we just think about the result the food has on our weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels, but what about the effect on the gut? And what about stress, rest, and whether you have enough good bacteria for your body to digest and get nutrients?
So, listen to your gut. If something upsets it, don’t ignore the message. It could affect your whole wellbeing. If you ‘re suffering from a certain discomfort, visit a health professional.
Nature. 2013 Aug 29;500(7464):541-6. doi: 10.1038/nature12506
Bischoff SC. ‘Gut health’: a new objective in medicine? BMC Med. 2011;9:24.