Everyone is talking about “guts” lately. Specifically, gut health. It’s the biggest thing since the discovery that fat isn’t bad for us! The gut topic brings up subjects traditionally unspeakable and yet, like so many other modern topics, we find ourselves talking over the lunch table about the bacteria that reside in our intestines, why they are there and why mine might be better than yours…
It’s so exciting!! No, not the discussion over lunch, but the fact that this subject is being researched – and researched heavily! At long last the techies and scientists are understanding all the wonderful things our “gut biome” brings us.
What is Gut Biome?
Your gut biome is a term used to describe the trillions of bacteria that live in your gut or your digestive system. Everyone will have a different gut biome made up of (hopefully) lots of good types of bacteria, but also some (hopefully, only some) bad, harmful bacteria.
To begin with, we want them there. We are not going to treat them with antibiotics – in fact, antibiotics can kill them off!! It is thought they begin their colonisation in an individual’s gut at birth, though more recent research is suggesting they begin their presence in utero, and all research is saying they are so good we need to reconsider them as being the true brain of the body!
So, what does my gut biome do?
In a nutshell, you could say all those bacteria create the balance throughout the body. They influence so many aspects of a person’s health and wellbeing that it’s safe to say we cannot survive without them! They influence our mood, our weight and our immune system. They create several vitamins, they influence the making of many hormones, they assist in our sleep patterns and clear mindedness and to top it off, they produce 95% of our serotonin – keeping us happy and sane!
Do we need to help our gut biome?
We need to help the nice bugs! However, we do need some of the bad ones, apparently – it’s the balance that counts.
As an example, if we have an overabundance of the bad bacteria, our gut lining becomes inflamed and this inhibits the work of the good bacteria. It sounds pretty complex and extremely busy down there, however it appears that how we feel every day depends to a large extent on our good gut bacteria. So it actually is vitally important that we help them.
How Can We Improve Our Gut Health?
By eating well! It’s quite simple, really. We know we feel sluggish and slow after a big, rich meal or sugar laden snack. We know we get a short-term lift when we munch on chocolate or lollies and now we know the reason why. If we eat a diet high in good quality protein and containing heaps of veggies, we feel energised and usually are happy. Guess what? It’s from all those little creepy-crawlies in our gut!
Our diet should contain: olive oil, nuts, oily fish, full fat dairy, eggs, oats, barley, seaweed, inulin rich foods (such as onion, asparagus and Jerusalem artichokes) and lots of veggies, especially green ones. Also aim for your diet to be as organic as possible and contain no refined sugars or processed foods. Then add in some fermented foods, such as kombucha, kefir and yoghurts, ensuring they contain “live” or “active” bacteria. Easy right? Oh, alcohol – red wine in moderation is helpful (yay!).
Other things you can do to help your gut include:
- Intermittent Fasting – either the 5:2 diet or do a regular detox (weekly, monthly or less often)
- Supplementing with Pre- and Probiotics will help a deficit diet, but also is a good launch pad as you change other aspects of your life. Prebiotics contain the food to feed the probiotics, which are the live bacteria. We need to give the good bacteria the tools to work properly: greens and berries in abundance.
- Manage your Stress – find a way that suits you. Your good bacteria get overrun by the bad bacteria’s growth spurt when your stress hormones rise, but they especially love some daily mindfulness – so we suggest you have a go and master it. When you are stressed you actually crave poor, sugar laden foods – interesting isn’t it?
- Get enough Sleep, around 8 hours per night. Eating well and improving your gut health will help, as will decreasing alcohol and managing your stress.
- High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Those little creatures are stimulated too, apparently. The number of mitochondria increase during this type of exercise, increasing our cardiac output and efficiency, fat is burnt (YAY) and excess sugars in our muscles are flushed out, so it’s all good. Bonus for those of you that are time-stressed – it is time-efficient!
How Does This Affect Our Skin?
If our gut is inflamed and not functioning properly because there are too many bad bacteria, the goodies we eat will not be getting through to create the right balance of hormones, which influence our skin’s health. We won’t be sleeping well, we might be constipated, we are likely to be stressed and hunting through the cupboards for that long-lost lolly we absolutely must have! All these things we usually attribute to different reasons; however, the truth is that we can blame them all on our gut biome. If we want to change things in our life, then we need to keep our gut healthy!
If our skin is inflamed, dry, we get breakouts, acne or rosacea it is an indicated that our gut health is not as good as it could be. So we need to feed our good bacteria and allow them to take over from the baddies – Voila, we have clearer skin! It feels better, looks better and IS HEALTHIER!!
If you’d like to know the truth about your own gut bacteria, you can have it tested – have a chat to your GP.
Recipes for Healthy Gut Biome
We thought you’d enjoy a couple of recipes to get you moving towards a healthier gut.
Greens with Cannellini Beans and Pancetta
By Allrecipes | Time 40min | Serves 2
- 2 slices pancetta or bacon, chopped
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 bunch kale, roughly chopped
- 1 bunch beet greens, roughly chopped
- 1 can cannellini beans, drained
- salt to taste
- Microwave the chopped pancetta or bacon on high for 3 minutes. Drain the drippings, and set the crispy pancetta aside.
- In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Cook onion in oil until soft. Add the crushed garlic cloves, and cook a minute more. Stir in chopped greens, and season with salt to taste (be conservative at this point – you can always add more!). Partially cover the pan, and cook until the greens begin to wilt. Stir in crispy pancetta and cannellini beans. Cook partially covered for 5 more minutes, until the flavours have combined and the greens are tender.
Tip: Aluminium foil helps keep food moist, ensures it cooks evenly, keeps leftovers fresh, and makes clean-up easy.
Grilled Salmon with Avocado Dip
By Allrecipes | Time 45min | Serves 6
- 2 avocados – peeled, pitted and diced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 3 tablespoons Greek-style yogurt
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 pounds salmon steaks
- 2 teaspoons dried dill
- 2 teaspoons lemon pepper
- salt to taste
- Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil grate.
- In a medium bowl, mash together avocados, garlic, yogurt, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
- Rub salmon with dill, lemon pepper, and salt. Place on the prepared grill, and cook 15 minutes, turning once, until easily flaked with a fork. Serve with the avocado mixture.
Tip: Aluminum foil can be used to keep food moist, cook it evenly, and make clean-up easier.
Enjoy the healthier you who sleeps better, is happier and has a clearer, more radiant skin!
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