Digestive health influences the way you look, feel and thrive. Regulated by the ecosystem of healthy bacteria that lives inside your gut microbiome, digestive health balances both physical and mental wellness. Your gut microbiome is powered by your genetics, any medications, and environment, and is directly impacted by what foods and drinks you regularly include in your diet.
Let’s explore what powers your gut. The microorganisms that live in your microbiome assist in digestion, contributing to the preservation of the intestinal lining that helps retain nutrients. They also power the brain-belly connection, a signalling between your digestive system and the brain. This connection is heavily influenced by the contents of your gut microbiome, which is why digestive health can have positive effects on your mood, energy levels and well-being.
Dysbiosis, on the other hand, is an imbalanced microbiome and can be caused by medications such as antibiotics, stress or sustained poor-quality diet. Dysbiosis has been linked with impaired ability to retain nutrients, low-level inflammation associated with chronic diseases like obesity, and symptoms of gastrointestinal upset. Excessive red meat consumption and high intake of alcohol, fried foods, high-sugar foods and artificial sweeteners have been shown to compromise the lining of the intestines, so intake should be moderated.
To help regulate digestive health, it’s recommended to incorporate both pre and probiotics into your diet.
Prebiotics are the non-digestible parts of fibrous plant foods that have a role in feeding the gut bacteria. Rich sources include garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus and artichokes. These also include a type of fiber called resistant starch. Prebiotics are involved in the production of short chain fatty acids that help preserve the lining of the intestine, whereby regular consumption of these foods have been linked with improved immune function.
Probiotics are the live strains of ‘good’ bacteria that contribute to improving and/or restoring your gut flora. Rich sources are found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut, and should be included daily to maintain a healthy population. Probiotics are available as a supplement; however, it’s important to remember that each strain provides different benefits, with some better researched than others.
Now that you have a solid understanding of digestive health, you can start transforming the way you feel from the inside out. And look out for our next gut-centric blog on all things fiber!