TIPS Healthy eat­ing ex­pert Lee Holmes tells us how you can im­prove your health by look­ing after your gut.

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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.


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.


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 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.

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