There are literally 101 things you could be doing to improve your health. Overwhelmed? Along this wellness adventure of mine there have been so many things to do and so many ways to approach it. One minute everyone agrees, then next they all disagree. Truth is, nutrition has only been taken seriously as a science relatively recently and there is oh-so-much we still don’t know (hence all the confusion!).
But it’s not all doom and gloom because in 3 years of self-study and speaking to several nutritionists I've learnt that there is at least one thing that everyone agrees on: the importance of our gut to the our health. People notice this in different ways but the first place that I notice a difference is on my skin. If a happy gut creates glowing skin then that is definitely something I can get excited about.
If you do one thing for your health, then be good to your gut.
Why is gut health so important + what have probiotics got to do with it?
You’ve probably seen all those adverts on the telly about the good bacteria in yoghurt etc. Happy tummy = happy you, and all that. Well, very nearly. Don’t worry, I won’t let this become a science lesson (even though you’re smart enough to cope with one) but I will briefly cover the basic science - I want you to come away a little wiser, not bamboozled!
Basically your gastrointestinal tube runs all the way from your mouth to your, um, bum (trying not to get too technical here!). Your gut typically refers to your stomach and intestines, where most of the digestive process occur. Your large intestine is responsible for finishing off the digestive processes of breakdown that don’t occur elsewhere and absorbing the nutrients that have been released form our food and drink. The lining of our intestines is folded many millions of times to increase the surface area for this absorption to occur (i.e. speed it up).
You’ve heard of the gut flora, right? This is essentially the collective name for all the microbiota (or bacteria) that are sitting pretty on the cell walls of our gut. There are 100 trillion of these guys in our gut and they can weigh up to 2kg! Although some bacteria are labelled as ‘good' and others as ‘bad', they each have a role to play in digestion and so it’s important that we maintain the correct balance.
- The digestive system is commonly referred to as ‘The Second Brain’ - it plays host to a whole swathe of ‘feel good’ chemicals (around 90% of these come from our gut).
- In fact, 70-80% of our brain chemical are made in the gut.
- It makes up over 75% of our nervous system
- Poor gut function has been linked to autism, depression, obesity, type 2 diabetes, acne, psoriasis, eczema, numerous allergies and asthma, hormonal dysfunctions and a load of autoimmune diseases like IBS, Hashimoto’s and type 1 diabetes (OK, so maybe not such a fun fact).
Basically, the gut it pretty darn important. And there is loads that you can do to support it. Probiotics is one of the ways that you can do this.
Probiotics are substances that encourage the growth of ‘good’ bacteria and help support a healthy macrobiotic balance - you want lots of probiotics!
Where can you find probiotics?
Probiotics naturally occur in our digestive system already (yay!) and are made from the food we eat via prebiotics (subtle difference - these guys are basically food for the bacteria).
There are so many probiotics-rich foods to choose from:
- Yoghurt, dairy or non-dairy (preferred), including those made from coconut and nut/seed milks
- Kefir, made from milk, water or coconut water .
- Kombucha, a fermented tea (psst: this tastes like cider! I’m obsessed….)
- Sourdough bread (I love this gluten-free version by Biona)
- Lots of other fermented veggie and pickle mixes.
Many of these foods are fermented which allows the probiotics and bacteria to grow (in a completely non-gross way).
Probiotic foods should always come before supplementation. However, lots of people could really benefit from a little extra someone' somethin' in this area, especially if they are on the contraceptive pill, have been taking antibiotics recently or for a prolonged period, have food intolerances, or skin issues.
Supplements must be good quality and it’s worth doing a little research into the stains of bacteria that will be most beneficial to you I tend to go for a product that has a broad spectrum to cover most bases. Check out this awesome resource from my friend Cassie for guidance. Unfortunately you won’t find these in the supermarket, but they are easy enough to find online.
Heads up: other factors including stress and lifestyle, can also play a big role in gut health (which is why many people suffer from IBS, indigestion and bloating during stressful periods) so its worthwhile being mindful of this too.
I’m loving experimenting with lots of fermented foods at the moment and will be sharing a coconut water kefir recipe with the very soon (nom!) so and stay tuned.