In Part 1 we looked at what can go wrong in the gut, and some of the causes. In Part 2 we'll look at some practical ways to improve your gut health.
Probiotics and Prebiotics – what are they?
This area of gut health is probably one of the most exciting to arise in recent years, and the research into it is ongoing. There is so much we don’t know about the gut, its microbiota, its link to the brain and the rest of the body, and how it impacts on the rest of our health, but big steps are being taken all of the time to help us to understand this fascinating area more thoroughly.
So, what are probiotics exactly? Well they are actually live micro-organisms. When we consume them as humans, they actually create a health boost to the host, i.e. us! There are many hundreds of different strains of probiotic, but the most common come from fermented dairy products such as yoghurt. You’ll probably have heard of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus as these are the most well-known strains. But the problem with them is that they have a fairly torrid journey to reach where we want them to reach – as well as the production process (whether that’s yoghurt or supplements), they have to pass through the acid of the stomach and via the digestive juices and enzymes of the intestines before reaching the destination of the large intestine. This is why many over the counter products are possibly not going to have too much effect. The good news is that there are companies carrying out extensive research to find ways to ensure that the probiotics reach the gut in good condition, ready to their thing. But whilst it is hard to know the effects of probiotics, anecdotally I have had good successes when using very good quality supplements on myself, my family and clients.
Prebiotics are a slightly different kettle of fish and I believe they are also of utmost importance to gut health because of the effect they have on your own live bacteria. Prebiotics are a specific type of fibre that feed the good bacteria in our colon. They pass undigested through the stomach and small intestine in order to reach the colon in a useable form and once there they feed the microbes and help to stimulate their proliferation. There are a range of different prebiotics that have beneficial effects and these include leeks, onions, un-ripened bananas, asparagus and Jerusalem artichoke, to name a few. A word of caution though – these foods can create excess gas if eaten in too large quantities, so whilst it is well worth increasing them in your diet if they’re not already part of it, having too much can have negative side effects!
How to improve your own gut health?
As I’ve said before, gut health is where I start with pretty much all of my clients. “What, even if they come to you with recurrent infections, thyroid issues, or sleep problems?” I hear you ask. The answer is very simple. Yes.
If you suffer from specific digestive orders that are causing you discomfort on a regular basis, I would always advise you to seek out professional help rather than trying to deal with it yourself as it can take a fair bit of knowledge to unravel what is going on with the gut, and can be fairly overwhelming – but that said, there are some things that everyone can do to improve their overall gut health, and that’s what I’ll share with you now. I wouldn’t advise trying to implement them all in one go, but rather take it step by step, make small but permanent improvements rather than trying to do everything and then giving up.
Ways to improve your gut health:
If you have any individual questions around gut health, or feel that something may not be quite right, do message me.
Helping people to achieve optimal health and wellness - sharing simple nutritious recipes, tips and advice on how to improve your health through food, without compromising on taste.