Is your gut healthy?

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Do you suffer from bloating after a meal? Are you often worried about eating out in restaurants in fear you will be bloated and sore? Fear no longer. We are here to share some information regarding 'good' bacteria, and the best ways to achieve a healthy, happy gut. Having a balanced, healthy gut microbiota (the bacteria in your stomach) makes you feel comfortable, avoiding bloating, flatulence and stomach upsets. It was previously assumed that bacteria mind their own business, working in their habitat. However, it has emerged that our diet, stress and exercise alters gut bacteria causing all sorts of problems. Having a diverse group of bacteria appears to be the key to keeping your waistline slim. A study in 2013 found that lean people have 70% more bacteria than overweight people. This is only one of many studies that highlights the benefits of a diverse gut microbiota. Scientists are yet to pinpoint the exact reason bacteria influence our weight, however it is thought that bacteria alter the way food is processed and nutrients are absorbed. This affects the amount of calories extracted from food, ultimately altering our waistline. ​ ​Eating a healthy, nutritious diet is one of the most beneficial ways to ensure our gut is always healthy and happy. ​Here are some of our top secrets to a healthy gut: ​1. Up your fibre: Research suggests that fibre is the number one way to a healthy gut. It is thought that fibre helps bacteria grow and flourish, helping create a more diverse environment, promoting a slim physique. Instead of buying processed food with added fibre, opt for fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Aim to consume 20 to 30 grams of fibre per day. These products also contain prebiotics which are a type of fibre known to aid bacterial growth. Eating products such as garlic, leeks, bananas and whole grains is the most effective way to increase your prebiotic intake. ​2. Snacking: ​When we think of a quick snack we think sweets, biscuits and cakes which will rapidly increase our energy levels helping get us through the day. However, consuming excessive amounts of sugar starves the bacteria, preventing them from growing. To reach their full potential, bacteria require complex carbohydrates such as legumes and whole grains. Consuming excessive sugar causes bacteria to die or alter their behaviour to survive. They begin to feed on the mucous in the intestines which leads to low-level inflammation associated with weight gain. So, instead of grabbing a biscuit or pack of sweets in the afternoon, choose an apple or handful of nuts to feed your bacteria and prevent weight gain. ​3. Pick probiotic foods: ​Probiotics are live microorganisms, that when consumed offer a host of health benefits. You can consume probiotics via supplements or in foods such as yoghurt. Probiotics are most closely associated with digestive health particularly for irritable bowel syndrome. They help reduce constipation, diarrhoea, bloating and flatulence. Yoghurt is a common probiotic and is beneficial in weight loss as it contains high levels of protein which promote fullness and satiety. Consuming yoghurt with fruit as a breakfast or snack is a great way to increase your fibre, protein and probiotic intake, benefiting your digestive health and weight loss. ​4. Exercise: ​We all know that exercise is great for losing weight, building muscle/tone and for your mental health. However, did you know it also benefits your gut bacteria. People with a normal BMI who exercise had a more diverse range of bacteria compared to overweight non-exercisers. A study conducted on rugby players found that those with a normal BMI who exercised had higher levels of Akkermansiaceae, a type of bacteria that has been linked to lower obesity. So getting sweaty regularly can help trim your waistline and to boost your gut bacteria.