Gut health: Dr Chris George on how to improve microbiome
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With processed foods – such as ready meals, meat products and crisps – making up much of the modern diet few of us consider how this is affecting us on the inside, other than making us put on a few pounds. But Bio-Kult nutritionist and technical advisor, Hannah Braye, warned that our guts (the intestines) are extremely “delicate” to what we eat. Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, she explained: “The biggest modulator of your gut microbiome is your diet.
“If we’re eating a processed diet with a low fibre content you are not providing the gut with what it needs.
“That means more pathogenic species that prefer high sugar or fat diets tend to proliferate and get to higher levels, and that’s thought to contribute to inflammation and various health conditions.
“And 70 percent of your immune system is in your gut so it’s one of the best ways to support your immune system is looking after their gut.”
The microbiome refers to trillions of bacteria, fungi and other microbes in the gut.
They help to control digestion and boost the immune system among other roles.
Hannah said: “In general with processed foods you’re looking at foods that have a lot more sugars and fats – with a lower fibre content – and that will all have an effect on your gut health and your gut microbiome.
“And they usually have lower micronutrient content as well so fewer vitamins and minerals, because processing will often reduce those levels – and that can be linked with various health conditions and can disturb the gut microbiome too.
“All of that can have a negative impact on our health the more processed the food is.
“There’s a huge correlation between the amount of processed foods people eat and their weight and metabolic health in particular like insulin resistance and diabetes, and cardiovascular disease and obesity.
“There’s some really interesting research on how the gut microbiome might be influencing all of those metabolic processes.
“People who are overweight have quite a distinct microbiome compared to lean individuals.
“That gut microbiome seems to be able to harvest more energy from food so you retain more energy and therefore that can mean you put on more weight.”
She said that since the end of World War 2, our diets have gradually become more reliant on processed foods and that was having an impact on our long term health.
Hannah added: “Previously the biggest killers were infectious diseases like typhoid, cholera and all these diseases we had in the past before vaccines and sanitisation.
“Now the biggest killers are these non-communicable, things like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and autoimmune conditions.
“These are very much conditions linked with what our diet and lifestyle is like.
“Genetics play a part but the way I often describe it is the genetics is like having the loaded gun pointed at your head, but it will only be your environment, diet and lifestyle that determine whether you pull the trigger and trigger that disease process.”
Foods Hannah recommended eating for good gut health are:
- High fibre foods
- Prebiotic fibres such as garlic, onions, asparagus, bananas, Jerusalem artichokes
- Fruit and vegetables – eating “a rainbow” of these ensures you are benefitting from a range of polyphenols
- Fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut.
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