The gut microbiota is a recently discovered human organ (yes, an organ!) whose importance is just being understood. Scientists are finding that the gut microbiota is extremely important for our health and wellness, more than we could have ever imagined!
The gut is covered in approximately 100 trillion microorganisms that play a vital role in the immune system- they are our first defense against any contaminated foods we happen to ingest . They also help ward off inflammation (including issues like irritable bowel disease, diarrhea and even symptoms of lactose intolerance) and actually provide food for the cells in the gut, which keeps your intestines nourished and healthy.
Various circumstances such as treatment with antibiotics, food borne illness and a poor diet can derail your gut microbiome and leave you vulnerable to illness, inflammation, and bacterial imbalance. Luckily we have two options that do wonders to help keep our gut healthy.
Probiotics: Probiotics are living organisms found in food that benefit our health. Probiotics help the gut by making it difficult for things to go through the gut that aren’t supposed to. Different strains of probiotics work in different ways and can help different ailments so it’s important to get a variety. You can purchase these in tablet form, but whole food options taste better and provide the variety that your body needs. Anything that has been fermented will naturally contain bacteria. Kefir, Kimchi, Kombucha, Sauerkraut, Miso and even pickles (brined in salt instead of vinegar), to name a few!
Prebiotics: Prebiotics consist of foods that are indigestible to humans but feed the bacteria in our gut (bacteria have to eat too!). These keep the good bacteria in our gut healthy and nourished. They also have other health benefits, such as preventing colon cancer, speeding up gut cell recovery from diseases like IBD, and balancing cholesterol levels. Just as with probiotics, there are different types of prebiotics that benefit us in different ways so you want to be sure to get a variety. Prebiotics are found only in plant foods including: bananas, onions, garlic, wheat, barley, Jerusalem artichokes, beans and lentils. All delicious options!
Keeping your gut happy and healthy is simple: just enjoy the fermented foods and plant-based options of your choice and keep a generally healthy and well-rounded diet.