Written by Christina Mollenhauer (Dietitian, Nutritionist and Recipe Developer)
Having a healthy body starts from within and looking after your gut health goes far beyond just aiming for regular bowel movements. The health of your gut is responsible for the well-being of all areas of your body including your hormones, weight management and mental health.
The digestion system is home to many trillions and billions of gut bacteria and for your gut to be healthy you need a balance of both the good and bad bacteria. To achieve this optimal balance the science tells us we need to have a diverse and abundant diet full of many plant-based foods that contain fibre, prebiotics and probiotics.
The more diverse and abundant the bacteria in your gut the better and more advantageous for all areas of the body to flourish.
Let’s define probiotics and prebiotics
Probiotics are the live bacteria that naturally are found in the gut, certain foods and supplements. They work to help add the ‘good’ bacteria into the gut which improves the diversity and function of your gut. When consumed in adequate amounts they help to digest food, fight harmful bacteria and regulate your immune system. Research even suggests that certain strains of probiotics can improve symptoms of IBS in some individuals. Probiotics can be found in supplements such as the Botanika Blends Protein Powder or naturally found in many foods such as:
- Yoghurt with live cultures
- Kefir (fermented milk)
- Fermented Vegetables (kimchi and sauerkraut)
- Miso Seasoning
Prebiotics are a non-digestible type of fiber found in certain foods that promote the growth and activity of good bacteria in the gut. When consumed they are passed through the body undigested and reach the large intestine where they become “food” for the “good” bacteria living there. Prebiotics help to enhance immunity, improve mineral absorption and produce anti-inflammatory compounds. Previous studies on a particular prebiotic called inulin has shown promising effects on stress hormone levels, emotional processing and cognition. Foods sources that contain prebiotics include:
- Vegetables (green peas, snow peas, corn, garlic, onion, beetroot)
- Fruit (bananas, watermelon, white peaches, nectarines)
- Legumes (chickpeas, baked beans, red kidney beans, lentils)
- Cereals (couscous, gnocchi, pasta, rye bread, barely, oats)
- Nuts (cashews)
In short, the probiotics are like the seed of the plant and prebiotics help to feed the seeds.
So, what happens if you don’t get enough?
Not only is the digestive system lined with bacteria but also millions of nerve cells that help the communication between our gut and brain. When the bacteria in your gut is out of balance, your brain health can suffer which is why it’s common for people with conditions like IBS to be more prone to certain mental health conditions.
2. Poor skin health and increased inflammation in the body
Poor gut health can cause issues such as food intolerances or sensitivities that further promote inflammation in the body. Your gut is responsible for metabolising hormones and absorbing nutrients and when these functions are compromised it may lead to skin conditions like acne or rosacea.
Overall, it’s important to keep your gut happy by adding plenty of prebiotic and probiotic foods into the day. This will help to promote an optimal balance and support overall health for the body and mind.
About the author:
Christina is a Qualified Dietitian and Nutritionist that is on a mission to help others feel normal around food. She specialises in women's health, gut health and disordered eating, and helps hundreds of people on the daily to find their own version of healthy. Through her personal experience of going through her own struggles with her body and food she has now developed the tools to educate and empower others with their health and nutrition. She is also a passionate foodie and loves to share daily content over on her social media @christinaskitchens