✍🏼 Tracy Ho | Community pharmacist & freelance health writer
Research shows that foods like nuts and legumes can improve your digestive health.
Everyone has healthy bacteria residing in the gut which, at normal levels, helps your immune system and digestion, alongside other roles. The equilibrium between healthy and disease-causing bacteria in the gut is important, and maintaining a balanced diet plays a part in this. In this article, we’ll dive into the world of digestive health, aswell as focussing on food that keeps the gut healthy, like dietary fibres and probiotics. We’ll discover how you can make mindful decisions that can keep your digestive system happy.
What kinds of foods can keep your gut happy? 🥜
Examples of common foods that have dietary fibre include cereals, legumes, nuts, vegetables and fruits.
A study carried out by the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that dietary fibre is the key nutrient for maintaining a healthy variety of gut bacteria. When your diet is lacking dietary fibre, the mucus layer of the gut becomes thinner, disrupting the healthy balance between gut bacteria and the mucus layer. This causes reduced gut bacteria diversity which could lead to inflammatory diseases like obesity, diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease.
Additionally, raw oats and soybeans are examples of prebiotics. These are a type of fibre that acts to stimulate the growth and activity of healthy bacteria in the gut.
According to research done by the Shanghai Institute of Digestive Disease, probiotics may regulate your intestinal health and even prevent or treat inflammatory bowel disease. The results suggested that combined probiotics provided better results in reducing ulcerative colitis symptoms.
Probiotics are fermented foods that contain lactic acid bacteria such as yogurt and cultured milk products.
What diets can be helpful to healthiness? 🥬 🍎
The Mediterranean diet (MD) is widely regarded as one of the most balanced diets.
Consisting of good fatty acids, antioxidants, high fibre intake and more vegetable than animal protein consumption, the Mediterranean diet is suggested for good health. Examples of foods considered to be part of a Mediterranean diet include olive oil, assorted fruits, vegetables, cereals and nuts. Fish, poultry and red wine are eaten in moderation, with reduced consumption of red meat, processed meat, dairy products and sweets.
The University of Naples investigated 153 individuals with differing diets, to see the impact on our gut microbiome. The study concluded that high consumption of plant-based food similar to the MD benefits our health by maintaining your gut microorganism’s metabolism.
Unfortunately, other popular diets like the Western and gluten-free diet were found to decrease the levels of healthy bacteria. This may increase the chances of having inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), or make the condition worse.
What does this mean for your lifestyle? 🕺🏻
Making informed choices on your food consumption can allow for increased energy and better lifestyle.
The food we eat plays a huge impact on the composition of our gut microbiome. By increasing your dietary fibre and probiotic intake, or altering your diet to match the Mediterranean diet, you may see improvements in your gut health, and even quality of life.
Edited by: Olivia Laughton | Content Editor | BSc Microbiology, University of Leeds