Gut Health – Feeding your gut bugs

Miss Caitlin Anderson – Wellbeing Health Promotion Officer

The health status of our gastrointestinal tract is gaining more attention from scientists and health professionals around the world. From birth, our gut microbiome is continually changing in response to dietary, environmental and social interactions.

The gut is often referred to as our ‘second brain’ which references the amazing brain-gut axis. Whilst the gut is responsible for extracting energy and nutrients from food, it also plays a key role in our immune health and brain function. Approximately 80% of the body’s immune system is located in the gut and the more diversified and abundant your gut bacteria – the stronger your immune system! In addition, 90% of the body’s serotonin (a feel good chemical) is produced in the gut. A fibre-rich diet, water and exercise can all help to improve our gut health.

Prebiotics and Fibre

Fibre is classified as the indigestible portion of food that is broken down by our gut bacteria. Soluble, insoluble and resistant starch are all sources of prebiotics, otherwise known as ‘gut bug fuel’, can increase the abundance and diversity of gut bugs and are found in a range of foods.

Insoluble fibre

This is found in the skins of fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds. Insoluble fibre adds ‘bulk’ to the stool and promotes regular bowel motions.

Soluble fibre

This is found predominately in the flesh of fruits and vegetables, wholegrain products such as bread, quinoa, barley, rolled oats, rice and pasta, as well as legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and kidney beans.

Resistant starch

This is the ‘toughest’ fibre as it is not broken down until it reaches the large intestine. Here, our gut bugs feed on the starch and produce short chain fatty acids, one of them being butyrate. When butyrate is absorbed by the colon cells, it promotes increased blood flow to the large bowel, keeps our gut bugs happy and can assist in the prevention of bowel cancer.

The best sources of resistant starch include cooked then cooled potato, rice or pasta, unripe bananas and legumes.

Probiotic-rich foods

These include foods that are rich in protective bacterial strains that are already present in your gut. These strains are predominately Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Foods that contain probiotics include yoghurt (with live active cultures), kefir, kimchi, Kombucha, sauerkraut, tofu and tempeh.

It’s also important to note foods that are potentially harmful to our gut health. These include foods that are high in fat and sugar and low in dietary fibre (such as refined grained). Our philosophy of ‘fresh is best’ fosters the belief that food in its most natural form is best for your long term health and wellbeing.

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