gut feel­ings Get­ting in touch with your in­ner mi­crobes.

A few easy-to-digest changes to your diet can help you to beat the bloat, get more en­ergy, pre­vent dis­eases and feel good from the inside out. - - THIS MONTH -

You have prob­a­bly heard it all be­fore – that it takes guts to lead a good life – but here we mean it lit­er­ally! There’s a rea­son why that old say­ing ‘you are what you eat’ is still rel­e­vant, and no more so than when it comes to look­ing af­ter your di­ges­tion. The West­ern world is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an over­whelm­ing in­crease in ail­ments such as obe­sity, food al­ler­gies, asthma, eczema, and auto-im­mune dis­eases, in­clud­ing type 1 di­a­betes and arthri­tis – and nu­tri­tion­ists, doc­tors and the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity are all turn­ing their at­ten­tion to our tums as the cause. Here’s why: it’s not just our ap­petites we’re sat­is­fy­ing when we eat; it’s the tril­lions of healthy bac­te­ria in our in­testines that need proper nour­ish­ment to main­tain the del­i­cate bal­ance in our sys­tems. As our Health Coun­cil mem­ber, As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor Tim Crowe, of Deakin Univer­sity, says, “Look af­ter your gut bac­te­ria and they’ll look af­ter you – that’s the sim­ple mes­sage. It’s all about what you feed those bac­te­ria – and the food they love is fi­bre, and lots of it.” How­ever, the West­ern diet has be­come in­creas­ingly re­liant on pro­cessed foods – sugar, re­fined car­bo­hy­drates (white bread, rice, pas­tries and bis­cuits), trans fats, and even the juices we drink rather eat­ing fruit in its raw state (skin and all). All of this de­creases the amount of sol­u­ble fi­bre that can be ‘eaten’ – or rather, fer­mented – by all those mar­vel­lous mi­crobes in the small in­tes­tine. And then there’s re­sis­tant starch, con­tained in foods such as grains, seeds and legumes, green ba­nanas and cold or even raw pota­toes, and so-called be­cause it re­sists di­ges­tion in the small in­tes­tine, but is con­sumed by the in­hab­i­tants of the large in­tes­tine. It’s been doc­u­mented that peo­ple in de­vel­op­ing na­tions – where dis­eases such as type 2 di­a­betes and colon cancer are far less preva­lent – have been found to con­sume 30 to 40 grams of re­sis­tant starch per day. In the West, we only eat 3 to 8 grams daily, un­less we’re ac­tively fol­low­ing a high-fi­bre diet… Plus, an­tibi­otics needed to de­stroy in­fec­tion-caus­ing bac­te­ria can also have a dra­matic im­pact on ben­e­fi­cial gut bac­te­ria. Ac­cord­ing to Dr Lau­rence Ma­cia, of Charles Perkins Cen­tre, Univer­sity of Syd­ney, more and more sci­en­tists think that the detri­men­tal ef­fects of the West­ern diet ex­plains the sud­den in­creased in­ci­dence of in­flam­ma­tory dis­eases. “The best way to counter this is preven­tion – by eat­ing loads of fi­bre and omega 3 fats, such as in the Mediter­ranean diet, and by get­ting reg­u­lar ex­er­cise,” she says. Foods that nour­ish the good bac­te­ria in your gut are known as pre­bi­otics, while foods or sup­ple­ments that add good bac­te­ria to your gut are called pro­bi­otics – think live cul­tured yo­ghurt, Ja­panese miso, un­pas­teurised kim­chi and sauer­kraut.

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