What is Gut Health & Why is It So Important?

We hear the term ‘gut health’ at health seminars, health food stores and usually amongst our health fanatic friends. But what does the term really mean and why is it so important to our health? We look into gut health a bit further and elaborate on why Hippocrates stated, “All disease begins in the gut”.

Our gastrointestinal system (or gut) is extremely important to our overall wellbeing. It’s main function is responsible for our body’s digestive and immune systems, beneficial bacteria in our digestive system influences our body’s vitamin and mineral absorption, hormone regulation, digestion, vitamin production, ability to eliminate toxins, immune response and our overall mental health.

So how can you build and maintain good gut health? Let’s look at the ‘good’ bacteria – probiotic that provides the digestive tract for optimal nutrient absorption, ease digestive issues (such as bloating and constipation), restore ‘healthy’ gut flora after antibiotics and support the body’s immune system, defending it against harmful bacteria.  

Probiotics are active living microorganisms, prevalent in numerous food sources such as fermented milk drinks, tempeh, yoghurt (containing live bacteria), sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchi. Probiotics often need to be kept cold in the fridge and consumed within the used by dates. Some newer forms of probiotic supplements however do not need to remain cold, making them suitable for travel. Ensure you check the label or ask your health practitioner to be sure.

Prebiotics on the other hand are a type of non-digestible fiber compound. Since the human body can’t fully break them down, once they pass through the small intestine, they reach the colon and are fermented by the gut micro-flora, feeding the probiotics. As a result the gut is healthier, more balanced and able to absorb essential nutrients as they pass through the digestive tract. Recent research has emerged that prebiotics may also play a significant role in immune function too. Foods that are rich in prebiotics include: onions, leeks and celery, bananas, garlic, green vegetables, wheat bran, rye-based breads, barley, whole oats and soybeans. It is suggested to aim to include at least 1-2 serves a day of prebiotics to help feed the good bacteria in your gut and support immune function for the winter season.  

In general, all types of fiber that we consume from eating whole, plant foods play a major role in nutrient absorption, gut and digestive health. Prebiotics, together with probiotics, open the door for heightened levels of health in general, so nearly everyone can afford to include them in their diets more often.

Because the health of our gut is closely tied to many other bodily functions, prebiotics and probiotics together are important for battling inflammation and lowering overall disease risk.

Next time you’re at the cafe, maybe opt for the lassi instead of the coffee, or grab some sauerkraut at the health food store. Here’s to your good gut health!

 

References:

  • “Your Body’s Second Brain – The Importance Of Gut Health”. Navacenter.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 29 May 2017.
  • “A Guide To Good Gut Health”. bodyandsoulau. N.p., 2017. Web. 30 May 2017.
  • “7 Reasons To Get Prebiotics In Your Diet, Plus Best Sources – Dr. Axe”. Dr. Axe. N.p., 2017. Web. 30 May 2017.

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