February is gut health month, which means we are talking about all things gut related, including evidenced based information, tips and recipes.
What even is gut health?
Gut health refers to the overall health and functioning of the digestive system, particularly the large intestine, and the trillions of microorganisms that live there, known as the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome plays a critical role in maintaining overall health and well-being, as it impacts many important bodily functions, including:
· Digestion and metabolism
· Immune system regulation
· Weight status
· Mental health
· Chronic diseases – Diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver, etc.
What happens when we have poor gut health?
An imbalanced gut microbiome can lead to a range of health problems, including digestive issues, mood swings, and decreased immunity.
Digestive Issues: An imbalanced gut microbiome can lead to digestive problems such as bloating, constipation, and diarrhoea.
Decreased Immunity: The gut microbiome plays a critical role in supporting the immune system, and an imbalanced gut microbiome may leave the body vulnerable to infections and other health problems.
Mood swings: The gut microbiome produces neurotransmitters that regulate mood.
Inflammation: Chronic inflammation is a common consequence of poor gut health, and may contribute to a wide range of health problems.
Food Intolerances: Poor gut health can also lead to the development of food intolerances and sensitivities, which can further impact digestive and overall health.
Other factors that influence gut microbiota are the following:
· Alcohol consumption
· Medication/Antibiotic use
So what is the one thing that can be impacting our gut health?
Short answer: Plant diversity.
Plant diversity plays a critical role in maintaining gut health, as different plant foods can provide a wide range of nutrients, fibres, and other compounds that contribute to the health of the gut microbiome. A diet that includes a variety of plant foods can help to maintain the balance and diversity of the gut microbiome, which is essential for optimal gut health.
Eating a diversity of plants allows you the opportunity to get a variety of different types of fibre into your diet. Fibre is what our gut bacteria feed off.
Our gut bacteria ferment these fibres resulting in the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which are beneficial for health. The SCFAs known as acetate, propionate, and butyrate are the main metabolites produced in the colon (large intestine) by bacterial fermentation of dietary fibres and resistant starch.
The role of SCFAs are:
To assist with lowering cholesterol levels
Reduce inflammation and therefore incidence of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver etc.
A variety of fibres= Increased growth of healthy bacteria species = A healthy microbiome.
Therefore, the one thing that could be impacting your gut health is consuming the same foods every day.
When we consume the same foods every day, we are not allowing our body to get a variety of nutrients, such as fibre, which is the key foundation of good gut health.
This means, the one thing you can do to improve your gut health is to consume a diverse range of plant foods, think different colour fruit and vegetables, different nut & seed mixes and consuming grains you don’t normally consume.
So how do I know if my diet is diverse enough?
Studies have shown that at least 30 different plant foods per week is essential for good gut health.
The number comes from The American Gut Study the largest published study to date of the human microbiome. In this research, stool samples were collected from individuals across the globe including the US, UK, and Australia. The results showed that individuals consuming 30 or more different plant-based foods per week had a much broader range of gut bacteria compared to those who consumed 10 or fewer plant-based foods per week.
Not sure how many plants you are consuming- not to worry I have you covered. I have created a free gut health checklist which allows you to see how many plants you are consuming in a seven-day period.
The one thing that could be impacting your gut health is eating the same foods every day
Try to change the types of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts and seeds you consume.
Think - eat the rainbow- opt for as many different colours as possible.
Aim for at least 30 plant foods per week
If you want to find out more about your individual requirements, book a consultation with Sprout Nutrition today and Melissa can assist you with a personalised diet plan.
Author: This blog post was written by Melissa D'Elia (APD)
Book your free discovery call now to find out how Melissa can assist you.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult with your Dietitian or GP for individualised advice.
Copyright: 2023 Sprout Nutrition & Dietetics.
Jandhyala SM et al. Role of the normal gut microbiota. World J Gastroenterol. 2015 Aug 7;21(29):8787-803.
McDonald, D et al. American Gut: an Open Platform for Citizen Science Microbiome Research. mSystems. 2018 May 15;3(3):e00031-18. doi: 10.1128/mSystems.00031-18.