Updated: Aug 16, 2022
The decline of our microbes
In recent years there has been masses of research on the human microbiome. The microbiome in the mountain of bacteria that live on our body and in our gut. Research is showing, the more diverse the bacteria the healthier we are as human being. Over the last 5 decades has seen a reduction in the bacteria diversity. This is due to:
· Low fibre in diet
· Too much highly refined foods – including refined carbs and sugar
· Lack of diversity in our food
· Artificial sweeteners
· Not getting enough sleep
How can we improve our gut diversity?
Many fruit and vegetables contain what is known as prebiotics. Prebiotics are undigestible by the human body and they are what our gut bacteria likes to feed on. Different bacteria like different types of prebiotic. If you have limited diet you will be killing off some of the bacteria and therefore reduce the diversity of bacteria. Food particularly high in prebiotics are onions, leeks, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, apples, green bananas, leafy green vegetables.
One other thing you can do is add fermented foods to your diet. Fermented foods are full of bacteria that can be helpful for supporting our existing bacteria. The more beneficial gut bacteria that is around the less chance that unhealthy bacteria will be able to thrive and cause infection or disease. The good guys will help to crowd out the bad ones and reduce chance of infection.
Fermented foods include:
· Sauerkraut. A fermented cabbage. This can be homemade or from a reputable company like Good Nude Food. Good sauerkraut can be found in local health food stores. Read the label. It should not be pasteurised or contain sugar or vinegar.
· Kimchi. Sauerkraut's Korean cousin, this fermented cabbage dish is spicy. Again it can be made at home or bought from a good local health food store
· Kefir, both water and dairy. These can be bought in supermarkets or Holland and Barratt, however check out good websites such as Nourished By Nature (Janice Clyne) or Happy Kombucha.
· Kombucha. This is a fermented tea that requires a SCOBY (a jelly like starter teeming with bacteria). Again check out Janice’s website or Happy Kombucha. Kombucha is easily available in supermarkets and even coffee shops.
· Miso. Is a fermented soybean. It is great for making soups, stews and curries. Can be bought in large supermarkets or small local food shops.
· Tempeh. Another way of fermenting soyabeans. It comes in slabs and is a good vegan protein. It’s not so easy to come by but check out local food stores like Locavore.
· Yogurt. Stick with natural only. Fruit ones are full of sugar that can spike blood sugars. There are plenty of varieties to chose from. Organic is best if using dairy.
Whatever you do, don't go and rush out and buy a mountain of fermented food and tuck into it. Go slow! Start by increasing your fruit and veg intake. If you eat 2-3 per day, increase to 3-4 then 4-5 and then eat as much as you like. 80g of fruit or veg is a portion. Aim for 7 per day.
Similarly with probiotic foods take it one step at a time. Too much too soon may result in very uncomfortable digestive symptoms. Bloating, gas, trapped wind and diarrhoea my result. Gentle introduction of these foods will help reduce the amount of symptoms until the changes in the gut bacteria have settled down. Once you can tolerate these foods without little or no symptoms begin to increase the quantity you eat or drink.
If you want to begin to make changes to your gut health, then why not download my 7 Day Gut Plan.
Marie Jarvis helps people look after their gut health, from mild niggly symptoms like wind, bloating and diarrhoea, to extreme symptoms that prevent you from living the life you love. Check out my service page for the different ways that I can help you feel great about yourself inside and out.
And Nutritionist who specialises in gut health and digestive issues.