What You Need To Know About Gut Health
Our guts are so much more than simple food digestors. In fact, more is becoming known about the gut health being key to overall wellbeing.
The term 'microbiome' refers to the levels of organisms in a particular environment; when we talk about the gut microbiome we are generally referring to the ratio of good:bad bacteria within our guts.
Having a poor microbial balance has now been linked to many chronic issues such as asthma, diabetes, arthritis and allergies. Poor gut health is clearly not the only reason for these diseases but research is now suggesting gut health to be a significant contributing factor.
As a nation, our gut health is declining and many people are now lacking the appropriate levels of good bacteria needed.
What Is Killing Our Gut Health?
Interaction with germs are needed to enhance gut flora. When we encounter germs, our immune systems mounts a response, giving it work to do. Without encountering germs as a child, you could be loading yourself up for disease in later life.
Early exposure to germs is vital in preventing chronic issues. In todays society, we feel the need to cleanse everything. Offices commonly have hand sanitisers stuck on the wall and we are constantly using harsh soaps and creams, eliminating all traces of dirt.
This practice in itself could be harming our delicate microbial balance. Inadequate exposure to dirt could lead our immune systems to become slightly trigger happy and start attacking our own body parts, as shown in conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBD).
Alcohol is a major contributing factor to bacterial overgrowth, which crowds out species of good bacteria. Most of this overgrowth happens in the small intestine; this overgrowth of bacteria species can then consume the nutrients that the small intestine would usually absorb.
We are lucky we live in a society where medicine is basically on tap and many treatments are available for a wide range of diseases. However medicines such as antibiotics, acid suppressants, anti-inflammatories and steroids all tend to play havoc with our gut health.
These drugs cause bacterial imbalance and in the case of antibiotics, kill off bacteria. Whilst there is obviously times when medicine use cannot be avoided, our overuse of these medicines in todays society is likely playing havoc with our gut health and the delicate balance of bacteria.
Why We Recommend Living Dirty, Eating Clean
So what can we do to keep our guts in a healthy balanced state?
Gut health can be boosted by eating natural, whole foods. Leafy vegetables and unprocessed grains feed the good bacteria in our gut, whereas the bacteria we don't want proliferating feed off sugary, starchy foods.
Eating enough fibre in our diet is key to maintain that healthy microbial balance and not enough fibre can reduce the diversity of gut bacteria.
Food such as lentils, apples, oats and nuts help some important bacteria species proliferate. Keep your diet as natural as possible and avoid processed foods. Base your diet around fruit, vegetables, lean meat, fish and nuts and you won't go far wrong!
Encourage children to keep playing outside and get muddy! Remember, childhood is a vital time for exposure to bacteria, so don't fall into the habit of constant cleaning, scrubbing and avoidance of all dirt.
The same applies for adults, we aren't saying you need to now live in a mud hut and eat off the floor. But don't 'go to town' with daily antibacterial sprays and hand sanitisers.
Get outdoors and enjoy a picnic.
Spend some time in the garden.