Digestive health, good and bad bacteria, probiotics and prebiotics – gut health seems to be the latest buzz in the food and health space, but what exactly does it all mean, and why is gut health so important?
Gut bacteria plays a crucial role in overall health and wellness, and with more than half of Australians complaining of digestive problems, such as inflammation, bloating, abdominal pain and heartburn, we asked Accredited Practising Dietitian and Capilano spokesperson, Kate Save, how we can step up our gut health game.
First step? Understanding the basics of good and bad bacteria. This is vital to ensuring a happy, healthy tummy.
“Good bacteria is beneficial to the body and can help enhance your overall health and bacteria. Some food sources that encourage good bacteria include prebiotic honey, apple cider vinegar and probiotic yoghurts,” says Kate.
“Maintaining a healthy balance of good bacteria in our gut can help our bodies to break down food and absorb nutrients. Try to avoid or reduce consumption of refined sugars and highly-processed foods to keep bad bacteria at bay. Instead, opt for a natural sweetener such as prebiotic honey if you’re after a little sweetener.”
Kate's Top 5 natural foods for good gut health:
1. Prebiotic Honey
Honey is a delicious, natural sweetener that can be used in cooking and in teas for a sweeter taste, all while helping to contribute to overall digestive health.
Prebiotic honey has clinically studied digestive health benefits and is known to improve the ratio of good-to-bad bacteria in the gut. Just 14mLs, which is around a tablespoon, per day has been shown to increase the good bacteria lactobacillus and bifidobacteria while supressing the bad bacteria clostridium.
Many natural or Greek yoghurts are a great source of live bacteria, otherwise known as ‘probiotics’. Probiotics introduce good bacteria to the gut, whereas prebiotics support and nourish the good bacteria that’s already there.
These probiotics survive in the gut and contribute to the overall population of gut bacteria, and play a huge role in balancing your gut health.
By consuming a probiotic such as yoghurt each day, the colony of these beneficial bacteria will build up in the gut and may assist with minimising the effect of bad bacteria. Adding an extra dose of a probiotic supplement may also bring a little harmony back to the tummy.
3. Raw Fruit and Vegetables
Not only do fresh fruit and vegetables provide your body with a variety of vitamins and minerals, they are also a great source of fibre.
By eating fruits and vegetables (raw with the skin on where possible), these foods provide the body with both soluble and insoluble fibre.
Soluble fibre is found in the flesh of fruits and vegetables such as carrots, oranges, and apricots, and insoluble fibre is the rough skins of fruit and vegetables including spinach, apples and bananas. Both types of fibre play an important role in keeping your stool movements regular, as well as improving digestion.
4. Apple cider vinegar (ACV)
Healthy levels of acid in the stomach are vital for digestion and the absorption of key nutrients. Apple cider vinegar is known to improve digestion by increasing stomach acid and importantly, apple cider vinegar contains “The Mother”, a living mixture of beneficial bacteria, minerals and enzymes.
A teaspoon of apple cider vinegar can be added to a glass of water for a daily morning pick-me up, and has been referred to as the ‘wholly grail of salad dressings’, often used in place of balsamic vinegar to dress up a salad.
Sauerkraut is a fermented cabbage which contains live bacteria, also known as probiotics. Sauerkraut can be enjoyed in a mango-kimchi salad, or more traditionally as a side to a warm plate of sausages.
Whatever way you enjoy it, sauerkraut is a great source of dietary fibre and is considered beneficial for gut health and digestion.
At the end of the day digestive health is all about making sure good bacteria outweighs the bad and adding some of the above tips into your diet is a great start in upping the good bacteria in your digestive system.