TIPS Healthy eating expert Lee Holmes tells us how you can improve your health by looking after your gut.
Gut function affects your immune system and brain.
DID YOU KNOW THAT your body is host to around 100 trillion living organisms? You have a smorgasbord of bacteria on and in your body. They outnumber your own cells 10 to one.
The largest concentrations of these teeny bacterial entities are in your gut.
The world within your gut involves a multifaceted, interconnected, interdependent relationship between living organisms called microflora, which live in your digestive tract. Also referred to as gut flora, they are most easily understood as fitting into the categories of either “good” or “bad” bacteria. “Good” or “friendly” bacteria perform a multitude of tasks within your body, including working to regulate the gut by neutralising some of the toxic by-products of your digestion; preventing the growth of harmful, pathogenic bacteria; and gleaning and absorbing energy, nutrients and fatty acids from the foods you eat. “Bad” bacteria are capable of causing disease in the body by producing infection and increasing cancer risk.
CANDIDA & THE GUT
An imbalance in your gut flora can lead to an overgrowth of a yeast called candida (Candida albicans), a type of fungus that lives naturally within the human body and aids digestion and nutrient absorption.
When your candida levels are out of balance, the organism is kept in check by your good bacteria. If your microflora is imbalanced, candida can become destructive, breaking down the wall of the intestine and penetrating into the bloodstream, thereby releasing toxic byproducts into your body that can cause a raft of debilitating symptoms.
REBALANCING YEAST LEVELS
Candida and bad bacteria feed off sugar. Any food that will break down into sugar very quickly – white bread, white rice – and a diet high in fruit or carbohydrates will be a feast for bad bacteria. Avoiding these foods for a period of time will starve bad bacteria and prevent them outnumbering friendly bacteria. Increasing your intake of dietary fibre, antiinflammatory healthy fats – such as extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed (linseed) oil, cold-pressed extra virgin coconut oil and avocados – and antioxidant-rich foods will help eliminate and destroy bad bacteria. Scientific evidence now shows that the types of food you eat directly determine the levels of certain bacteria in your gut. Changing your diet will change the kind of bacteria you have, which will either support the strengthening of your immune system or deplete its defensive capabilities.
“Healing my gut was an integral part of regaining my health and vitality.”
THE BRAIN & THE GUT
The gut is not only deeply connected to your immune system; the health of your digestive system will directly impact the functioning of your brain. This is known as the gut-brain axis, and highlights the interdependency between these two areas of the body. In fact, your body has two nervous systems: the central nervous system, which is composed of your brain and spinal cord; and the enteric nervous system, which is the intrinsic nervous system of your gastrointestinal tract.
Just as you have neurons in your brain, you also have neurons within your gut. This includes neurons that produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin [responsible for feelings of wellbeing and happiness], and it’s found in its greatest concentration within the gut.
The ability of the gut microbiota (the community of microorganisms in your gut) to communicate with the brain and influence behaviour is emerging as a very exciting concept in the scientific world. Good gut health is without a doubt paramount in the state of your mind.
Top it off Stock up on belly friendly toppers such as yeast and dulse flakes, apple cider vinegar and tamari.
Coco goodness Coconut is a heart -healthy saturated fat that balances cholesterol. The best is one that’s cold- or expellerpressed and unrefined.
Fabulous foods High in soluble fibre, asparagus sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts are wonderful prebiotics.