The human body contains trillions of microbes, the vast majority of which are good for us. It may not surprise you to hear that the most dense microbe population is in the gut, however did you know that bacteria and microbes in the human gut can weigh over a massive 4lb?
In one of our previous blogs, we mentioned how important the digestive process is for the body and the whole of this process takes place in your gut (also known as your gastrointestinal tract). With such importance placed on the gut, especially considering the vast population of microbes living in it, it’s quite clear that this is a vital part of the body to keep healthy.
Microbes in the gut can play an important role in weight regulation, immune function and digestion. What you eat affects your microbes and can change them for better or worse. Dr Eran Elinav, a gut-bacteria researcher featured on the BBC’s Trust Me, I'm a Doctor, has suggested that improving your gut health can change your overall health. And it can be so easy. You just have to make a few changes to your diet.
What types of food are good for the gut?
In the world of gut-friendly foods, two foods are mentioned constantly; yoghurts and cheese. In the case of yoghurts, this is specifically referring to ‘live yoghurts’ and traditionally made yoghurts. These will contain live cultures that can help to add to the good bacteria in your gut. Both cottage cheese and mozzarella are good choices if you’re looking for gut-friendly cheese. There’s not enough research to know if the bacteria in cheese lives long enough in the gut to make it to the large intestine and be beneficial to us, however, there’s research to suggest that certain other properties of cheese can help preserve the bacteria throughout digestion.
What is fermentation?
Involving a process where food is mixed with a salty mixture and then kept in airtight jars or bottles, fermented foods are a great gut-friendly option. And not only will these make your gut happy, they will also keep your purse happy as well, as they are often cheap and easy to make at home. In fact, this is generally considered to be more worthwhile than buying fermented foods from the supermarket, as often supermarket variations use vinegar as part of the fermentation process. This can limit the benefits you’re likely to see from eating the foods. Some examples of fermented foods include kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut, kombucha and miso.
Five foods with gut-friendly bacteria
Yoghurt: There’s a lot of choice for yoghurt in the supermarket, so be careful, as many contain sugars and sweeteners. These could cancel out the potential health benefits of the yoghurt. Look for traditionally made or ‘live’ yoghurts.
Cheese: You want to choose cheese that has been traditionally produced, as natural bacteria is used in the making of the cheese. Mass-produced cheese is often made in a different way and may provide less of the health benefits.
Miso: Miso is a seasoning made by fermenting soy beans with salt and koji. It’s high in salt, so make sure you only use it in small quantities. A good way to use miso is in soups or as a marinade for salmon.
Kefir: Milk kefir is made by placing beads of bacteria and yeast into milk for 24 hours at room temperature. The beads are then removed with the result being a drink with a taste similar to yoghurt, with a slight fizz and a sour note.
Sauerkraut: Literally meaning ‘sour cabbage’, sauerkraut is made by massaging salt into shredded cabbage. When the juices have been drawn out, the cabbage is placed in an airtight jar to ferment. This stops the cabbage from going off, whilst also adding a vinegary taste.
Are you looking to start introducing some gut-friendly foods into your diet? If so, that’s great news, just remember to start slowly. A big change in your digestive habits all at once can cause some uncomfortable side effects, like bloating. Introduce the new foods slowly and build yourself up to a healthy amount. A good sign is if you notice a positive change in your bowel habits. This suggests that your microbes are changing for the better.
You could also try Forever Active Pro-B, the perfect high-quality friendly bacteria supplement to complement your gut flora and assist with your diet and lifestyle goals.
What’s your favourite food containing gut-friendly bacteria? Let us know in the comments.