Not only is the gut central to the body anatomically, but in recent years we have come to learn that the gut is central to the body physiologically too. Research in the last 10 years has demonstrated just how significant the gut and the trillions of beneficial bacteria that it plays home to has on our health and wellbeing, from digestive health to mental health, and everything in between. It is time to learn a thing or two about your gut and how to harness it’s full potential.
Traditionally it was assumed that the gut was just the place that food travelled through to be broken down, with the good stuff being absorbed and the bad excreted. But how wrong we were!
In actual fact the gut plays host to trillions of microorganisms, with around 1000 different species of bacteria, collectively known as the gut microbiome. These bacteria can either help or hinder our health. The interesting thing is that each person is unique in that the microbiome is completely different from one person to another, even identical twins.
Research has confirmed a strong connection between the microbiome and the immune system, detoxification and front line defence against certain potentially toxic food compounds, production of vitamins and energy, breakdown and digestion of foods, prevention of chronic diseases, improved mental health and reduced risk of depression thanks to the strong connection between gut and brain, via the gut brain axis. You name it, the gut is pretty much central to everything.
Let’s first look at the ways NOT to improve gut health & what to avoid..
Not only are refined, processed, junk foods catastrophic for your general health and body weight, but also your gut.
These foods are rich in sugar and saturated fats, and void of fibre and nutrients. This triggers inflammation and can decrease the beneficial bacteria that inhabit the gut, so the balance shifts to pathogenic bacteria that can wreak havoc.
Recent studies have shown that regular consumption of foods and drinks that contain artificial sweeteners can negatively impact the gut microbiome, particularly sucralose and saccarin.
Foods and drinks sweetened with artificial sweeteners could be considered a better alternative to sugar sweetened foods and drinks, but they are still no good for your gut and best limited.
Stress can negatively impact the gut, with stress hormones increasing gut motility, triggering diarrhoea. Stress can also completely reshape the gut microbiota in favour of damaging, pathogenic species.
Lack of sleep or even sufficient sleep but of poor quality can also negatively affect the gut microbiome.
Why not try our Sleep Shots? a combination of natural fruits, botanical extracts & amino acids known to make you feel sleepy.
Now things you can do TO improve your gut health:
The grateful gut formula is actually pretty simple, a greater volume and diversity of beneficial bacteria equals a healthy and happy gut.
A diverse diet, rich in various fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains is positively correlated with greater volume and diversity of beneficial bacteria. Unfortunately the typical diet of modern times is rich in sugar, fat and processed food, with very little of the aforementioned gut friendly foods. Some eye watering research even suggested that 75% of the world's food is produced from only 12 plant and 5 animal species. Little wonder that gut health is so poor!
The general recommendation is to aim for 30 servings of different plant-based foods each week, that’s 4 - 5 per day. If you have porridge for breakfast, consider adding various berries, nuts, chia seeds to that meal and vary the type of berry, nut and seed each day. Apply the same logic to all other meals, snacks and juices to maximize variety, that includes juices, smoothies and shots.
Full On Fibre
Fibre is a form of carbohydrate found in plants that cannot be broken down so passes through the gut and into the large intestine where it essentially acts as fertilizer for the beneficial bacteria that inhabit the microbiome. Fibre is often referred to as ‘prebiotic’, which essentially means food for bacteria and probiotics.
There are two commonly discussed types of fibre, they are soluble and insoluble fibre. Most foods will contain a variety of different fibres, but soluble fibre is typically found in larger quantities in legumes such as beans, lentils, peas, chickpeas, chia seeds and certain fruits and vegetables, while insoluble fibre is generally found in wholegrains and cereals such as wheat bran, nuts, fruit and fruit with skins, and vegetables.
Dietary fibre intake is directly correlated with the composition, diversity and richness of the microbiome. It is currently advised that adults should aim to consume 30 grams of fibre per day, yet research has shown that average intakes fall around 20 grams per day in most parts of the world. Thanks in part to an increase in consumption of refined, processed foods, low in nutrients and fibre, yet rich in calories.
Polyphenols are the colourful elements in plants that protect the plant against damage thanks to their powerful antioxidant capacity. Polyphenols are incredibly beneficial to numerous aspects of our health, including the gut. Polyphenols essentially act as prebiotics, in a very similar way to fibre, they feed and allow beneficial bacteria to flourish in the microbiome.
Polyphenols also provide a degree of protection to the gut and the beneficial bacteria, thanks to the potent antioxidant capacity they offer.
There are various forms of polyphenols, but the easiest way to ensure you are consuming a wide variety is to create a rainbow of colour on your plate at each meal. That includes green, red, purple, blue, yellow, orange and more, an abundance of colour will equate to all the polyphenols.
Some of the best sources of polyphenols include berries, fruits such as pomegranate, grapes, apples and oranges, vegetables such as onions, peppers, nuts and seeds such as almonds and flax seed, and even tea, coffee and dark chocolate.
Probiotics are living microorganisms that you can consume to further enhance the diversity of the gut microbiome. Probiotics are known to help restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut. They are found naturally in fermented foods, yogurts, supplements and also B.Fresh smoothies.
The benefits of probiotic supplementation are strain specific, meaning there are specific strains to support immune function, reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, improve mental health and more. It’s important that you do some research to select the most suitable probiotic for you.
At B.Fresh we utilise a unique strain of probiotic, called bacillus coagulans, which is a spore forming probiotic, meaning it comes to life when in the gut. This ensures that it survives the harsh gastrointestinal tract, where other probiotic strains my die and thus not help in any way. There is evidence to support the use of bacillus coagulans in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive issues such as bloating and constipation, while also supporting immune function and muscle recovery.
Shop our Super Smoothies p.s we've taking it one step further & added prebiotic as well as probiotics to our smoothies. Chicory Root (pre) feeds the pro, reaping the benefits further.
The gut undoubtedly impacts almost every aspect of our health and wellbeing, it’s central to everything. So investing time and effort into adjusting your lifestyle, diet and exercise to improve gut health is most certainly a worthwhile investment.
It is relatively simple to achieve and likely common sense to most. Simply reduce your intake of processed foods, replacing with natural, fresh, colourful wholefoods, include B.Fresh Gut Health Berries, Gut Health Greens, turmeric and ginger shots and aim to consume a wide variety of different plants each week. Managing stress and sleeping well will also be hugely beneficial.
Written By Sports Nutritionist Matt Jones BSc MSc - Mjnutrition.co.uk