There are approximately 10 times as many microorganisms in the human gastrointestinal system as there are cells in our body, the majority being bacteria. This is known as our gut microbiome.
Our gut bacteria impacts everything from digestion, immunity, mood and even weight.
To quote Hippocrates ‘All disease begins in the gut.’
When the balance is disturbed it can affect many aspects of our health, that may not seem directly linked to gut bacteria.
Certain things can disrupt our microbiome:
Antibiotic use and certain medications
A typical Western diet that is high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed/packaged foods.
Lifestyle can also affect our gut bacteria such as stress, lack of exercise, not getting enough sleep and smoking.
The best way to improve our gut microbiome is by eating a variety of different vegetables, salads and fruit from a variety of sources. Eating real food.
Probiotics and Prebiotics
Probiotic foods contain live bacteria and include natural yoghurt, bone broths, fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut and organic apple cider vinegar.
Prebiotics is what our good gut bacteria need to flourish and diversify.
Dietary fibre is an integral part of overall health and particularly our gut health.
Certain foods, especially plant fibres that our body can’t digest, encourage the growth of good bacteria. Our gut bacteria turn this fibre into butayne and this, in turn, has powerful anti-inflammatory effects inside our gut.
Inulin one of the best-known prebiotics is found in many different plants but has higher concentrations in the following:
Onions, leeks and garlic
Inulin not only increases the diversity of our microbiome but reduces constipation, can improve bone health, as it enhances calcium absorption and reduces the risk of heart disease as it helps lower triglyceride levels (2).
Short-chain non-digestible carbohydrates are a type of starch that our body can’t digest, leaving our large intestine quite intact. Once it has reached the large intestine, it feeds the good bacteria and releases butyrate. It also has two added benefits; it doesn’t spike blood sugar levels and it has little calories.
These include foods such as grains, seeds and legumes.
Other foods high in fibre that help feed our good bacteria include:
Barley which is great in soups and stews
Apples – consume the whole fruit
Generally speaking, eating a variety of wholefoods, brightly coloured fruits, vegetables and salads will help increase and diversify our gut bacteria.
Recipes to give your gut health a boost. These are from Dr.Michael Mosley’s book ‘The Clever Guts Diet.’
Creamy Cashew and Banana Breakfast Pots (serves 2)
As already mentioned, bananas are a great prebiotic and encourage the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
250g raw cashews
1 frozen banana
200 ml unsweetened almond milk
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp nut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
Place the cashews in a bowl and cover them with water. Soak them overnight, drain them and then blend with all other ingredients at high speed until you have a smooth paste.
Divide the mixture between two small bowls or glass jars.
Return to the fridge until cold.
Tanya’s Leaky Gut Healing Smoothie (serves 1)
200 mL unsweetened coconut or almond milk
A handful of baby spinach leaves
50g frozen berries of your choice
2 tbsp. collagen powder (organic)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Blitz all ingredients in a high-speed blender
Carrot and beetroot salad (serves 4)
2 tbs freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp tamari sauce
¼ tsp sea salt
300g carrots grated
300g beetroots peeled and grated (may need to wear some kitchen gloves)
150g pumpkin seeds toasted
1 tsp coriander seeds
Whisk together the orange, lemon juice, olive oil, tamari and sea salt to make the dressing.
Toss the carrots and beetroot together in a salad bowl. Add the dressing and mix well.
Gently fry the pumpkin seeds in a frypan till golden, adding the coriander seeds for the last minute. When cool scatter over the seeds and crumble the feta.
Classic Greek Salad (serves 2)
This has plenty of antioxidants, fibre and vitamins for a nutritious lunch.
½ Lebanese cucumber, cut into 1cm slices
3 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into wedges
½ small green capsicum, deseed and finely sliced
A handful of kalamata olives seeds removed
½ red small onion finely sliced
80g good quality feta cheese
Leaves from a sprig of fresh oregano finely chopped or a generous pinch of dried
2-3 mint leaves finely chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Mix the cucumber, tomatoes, capsicum, red onion, olives in a large bowl. Sprinkle over feta pieces, herbs and drizzle dressing. Divide between 2 plates.
1. Conlon, M., & Bird, A. (2014). The Impact of Diet and Lifestyle on Gut Microbiota and Human Health. Nutrients, 7(1), 17-44. doi: 10.3390/nu7010017
2. Mosley, M. (2017). The clever guts diet. Simon & Schuster.
3. Weaver, L., & Bannard, S. (2016). Dr Libby's women's wellness wisdom. The Green Frog Publishing P/L.