Research has shown that some components of food can improve the health of our gut and encourage a healthy balance of gut bacteria.
Our gut bacteria (also called our gut microbiota) have been linked to a number of health conditions including:
irritable bowel syndrome
inflammatory bowel disease
depression and anxiety
The major components of food found to naturally boost healthy gut flora and improve the environment of our gut include:
naturally occurring prebiotics – indigestible carbohydrates that feed the good bugs in our gut producing many beneficial bi-products in the bowel and supporting the immune system in our gut
soluble fibre – a type of fibre that absorbs water and helps with stool formation
resistant starch – another indigestible carbohydrate that fuels our gut bacteria
How do prebiotics work to improve gut health?
The break down of prebiotics (via fermentation) by the gut flora produces short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in our colon.
SCFAs have been shown to provide a number of positive health effects with the bowel including:
reducing gut inflammation and sensitivity
strengthening the immune system in our gut and
reducing the risk of colon cancer
People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may find that the fermentation of these prebiotics** results in increased gas levels. This can result in unwanted side-effects such as abdominal bloating, pain, wind or altered bowel movements. Therefore for people with IBS it is important to find a level of consumption that is tolerated.
Our top 10 foods to promote a healthy balance of microbiota:
Legumes, e.g. lentils, chickpeas, red kidney beans **
Rolled oats – these contain soluble fibre, resistant starch AND prebiotics!
Nuts – almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios**
Brussel sprouts, cabbage, beetroot, peas and corn**
Dried cranberries, currants and raisins
Butternut pumpkin and sweet potato
Onion and garlic**
** indicates those foods that may trigger symptoms in people who have gut disorders or food sensitivities.