Did you know that there are bacteria that are good for you? A huge amount of them live in your gut, and keeping them happy is an important way to avoid digestive issues.
Do you often suffer from bloating, heartburn, constipation or diarrhoea? Such digestive complaints may be symptomatic of a dysfunctional gastrointestinal system, more colloquially known as the gut. This dysfunction happens when your microbiome — the bacteria in your gut — is unhealthy.
Maintaining a healthy microbiome is not just vital to the health of your gut, but also to your overall health. Given that so many people suffer from digestive issues these days, boosting the gut microbiota is something we should all take seriously. Here are some suggestions to get you on your way.
1 Have a varied diet…
While it’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly constitutes a healthy gut, research suggests that having a diverse microbiome helps us function better than having only a few kinds of bacteria. A diet that builds a wide array of bacterial community is one that consists of a range of foods that are preferably whole rather than processed.2 …that includes fermented foods…
Including fermented foods in the diet is an age-old practice that has been followed by many cultures. Besides extending the shelf life of food, the fermentation process also produces probiotics, live microorganisms that aid digestion. Examples of such foods are yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut and some pickles.
Many of these foods are available in supermarkets and health food stores; however, the jars of pickles you buy off the shelf are sometimes prepared using vinegar instead of the usual fermentation process, which means they don’t contain probiotics. If you want to be sure that the fermented foods you consume contain probiotics, try making them at home — join a class or check out online tutorials that demonstrate how to do it.
3 …leafy greens…
Dark green vegetables, such as spinach and kale, have long been promoted for their nutritional benefits. Besides being packed with folate, beta-carotene and fibre, they have been found in recent research to also contain a unique sugar molecule called sulfoquinovose, which helps promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut. So now there’s one more reason to polish off your greens!4 …and foods with resistant starch
Resistant starch is a type of starch that is not absorbed by the small intestine. When you eat resistant starch, it passes into the large intestine, where bacteria turn it into short-chain fatty acids, the most important of which is butyrate. Butyrate is the fuel preferred by the cells in the colon.
Therefore, resistant starch feeds the friendly bacteria and the cells in the colon. It benefits the colon and also helps with digestive problems. Foods high in resistant starch include oats, rice, beans and legumes, raw potato starch, cooked and cooled potatoes, and green bananas.