Some say that the stomach is the key to our health. We wouldn't disagree. Your general health and performance is through your gut. In fact specific bacteria that live in our gut, particularly in the stomach and intestine influence pretty much everything in our body.
It has its own direct nervous system running to the brain - the vagus nerve. Gut instincts come from this, people always say trust your gut feeling! This bacteria contributes to our cravings, immune system, fat storage and even our moods. Have you ever been cranky when your hungry??
Certain strains of bacteria can influence our cravings towards chocolate, if we consume too much processed sugars or artificial sweeteners this can also encourage bacteria (not so good ones) to grow. This imbalance in favour of bad bacteria can have some knock on effects anxiety, poor sleep, elevated heart rate and struggling to lose body fat to name a few.
Bacteria follow the food that you eat. So the saying “you are what you eat” is well founded!! The easiest way to influence healthy bacteria is to eat a balanced, wide and varied diet. We have two forms of bacteria. Probiotics, are the actual bacteria that live in your gut. Prebiotics are the substances that probiotics live off. Both of these we can get from food. Your second choice which is what we recommend, is a supplement (high quality of course) which can provide up to 20 billion strains in just a single tablet.
Fibre is essential for beneficial bacteria and can be found in vegetables and legumes. Specific foods rich in probiotics are
- Soft and aged cheeses
- Sourdough bread
- Yoghurt (look for LAC - live active cultures seal)
- Raw garlic
If your diet is imbalanced, so will your gut bacteria be. This then sets up an unhealthy cycle where you have an imbalance of bad to good bacteria. You can break this cycle with the above foods, changes in lifestyle and weight. It's all about dietary balance. The leaner you are the more diverse your gut bacteria. These probiotic foods establish healthy colonies of microbes in your stomach which sends out signals to the body that everything is ok.
Here is a list of common enemies of the gut which can disrupt its balance
- Artificial Sweeteners (taken in excess)
- Processed foods
- Some oral contraceptives
Here are the benefits of having a healthy diverse gut
- Improved energy
- Increased immune system (less chance of coughs, colds, feeling sick etc)
- Lower inflammation (chronic diseases)
- Improved well being (blood pressure, weight, body composition etc)
The take home message would be a healthy, balanced diet, rich in whole minimally processed foods, probiotics and prebiotics. This is the key for developing a thriving diverse gut colony which will keep you healthy, manage your weight, sleep, stress and be able to perform all year round.