Have you heard of the term ‘gut flora’ before? If you haven’t, fret not. Here’s a crash course on what it is, why it’s so important, and how you can maintain a good balance.
Millions of bacteria and other microorganisms such as fungi, parasites, and viruses can be found in our intestines. Collectively, these coexisting microorganisms are known as gut flora.
When we think of fungi, parasites, or bacteria, we tend to see these things as unhealthy. However, these organisms are actually important elements that allow our bodies to function optimally.
In a healthy person, these organisms coexist in balance with each other. When these organisms are imbalanced, it can lead to illnesses and complications from within.
There are two kinds of microorganisms in our gut — good and bad bacteria.
While good bacteria promotes healthy functions such as anti-inflammatory effects, bad bacteria results in negative bodily effects. A healthy gut microbiome has a healthy balance of both good and bad bacteria. Health problems occur when good bacteria are unable to keep the bad bacteria in check.
The gut flora provides multiple benefits to our bodies, such as:
• Helps with food digestion
• Produces vitamins such as biotin and vitamin K
• Stimulates the immune system
• Breaks down potentially toxic food compounds
• Synthesizes certain vitamins and amino acids
• Offers protection from pathogenic organisms entering the body
• Involved in the production of SCFA (short-chain fatty acids) that the body uses for nutrition, muscle function, and the prevention of certain illnesses
• Prevents the growth and expansion of harmful bacteria in the body
Considering gut flora plays a crucial role in several bodily processes, it is important to keep it healthy and thriving. Here are some tips to help you balance your gut flora.
Generally, the more diverse your gut flora is, the healthier it will be.
This is because each microorganism found in your gut benefits the body differently. The more diverse your gut becomes, the more benefits you can get from it. To achieve greater diversity in your gut, eat a variety of healthy foods to ensure you are exposed to a diverse range of bacteria.
Vegetables and fruits are great sources for fibre. Organisms in your gut will thank you for it. Fibre stimulates these organisms and helps them grow. Eating beans and legumes also helps your gut as they contain high amounts of fibre. Consider adding raspberries, green peas, broccoli, bananas, apples, beans, and lentils to your diet.
Fermented foods are also worth considering for a healthy gut. Some of these options include yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha — all of which are rich in good bacteria that can support gut health.
Lastly, whole grains contain a lot of fibre and nutrients that our body cannot digest on its own. These nutrients find their way to our large intestine where bacteria can further break them down. This promotes and stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria in our bodies.
Getting enough sleep is important for your overall health. Lack of sleep can lead to harmful gut-related complications. These complications can then lead to more issues with sleep, which forms a vicious cycle of severe complications.
Proper hydration helps in boosting the mucosal linings in your intestines. It also provides multiple benefits to the good bacteria in your gut. Make sure you drink the recommended amount of water daily — 8 glasses for adults is optimal.
A person’s internal make-up is unique, meaning what promotes healthy gut bacteria for you could be detrimental to someone else. This also means that we may find certain foods more difficult to digest than others. When we eat these trigger foods, it might cause some trouble to our gut and digestive system. Consult your doctor to find out if you have any trigger foods, so that you can minimise their effect on your diet and gut health.
Probiotics are basically the good bacteria and other microorganisms that live in your gut. They are beneficial because they support proper digestion and the overall health of our gut and digestive system.
They also help in keeping harmful bacteria away from the gut, contributing to a healthy and well-balanced gut flora. You can get your fix of probiotics from foods such as yoghurt, sourdough, buttermilk, cheese, or any fermented food.
If you’re on a restrictive diet, you can also consider taking supplements to boost your probiotic intake. Just make sure to consult your doctor or healthcare provider beforehand.
Curcumin is a compound nutrient found in turmeric and other herbs and spices. While it’s known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative prowess, curcumin is also great at supporting gut health and contributes to the overall digestive function of the body.
Studies have found that zinc may help the body against gastrointestinal tract disorders. On the other hand, zinc deficiency is related to the development of certain gastrointestinal disorders.
If you find yourself on a very restrictive diet, or unable to support a healthy and diverse gut flora through your food intake, consider taking supplements as it is a great way to bolster any deficiency you have. Especially with regards to gut health.
Some of the supplements you can consider for gut health include probiotics, prebiotics, and curcumin. Make sure you consult your doctor first before taking any supplement.
A healthy, diverse, and well-balanced gut flora is essential to living a healthy life. It is important to take the proper steps and precautions to maintain your gut flora’s health for healthier days ahead.
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*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.