Our gut, or more specifically the large intestine, is home to trillions of bacteria that help regulate our immune system and our weight, and can possibly affect our mood. It’s called the gut microbiome and even though scientists haven’t discovered what an ‘ideal’ healthy gut looks like, they do know that the more diverse our microbiome is, the better it is for our health.
So how can you change what lives in your gut and make it more diverse?
It’s about what you put in your mouth says Dr Michael Mosley, science broadcaster and author of The Clever Guts Diet. “These days when I put something in my mouth, I consider what it will do not just to my body, but also to my biome,” he says.
Processed and sugary foods are mostly absorbed in the small intestine so it’s important to eat food that makes it to your large intestine.
“They’ve done some interesting studies where they get people to swap diets and they took poo samples and they find that if you switch from a classic western diet, which is high in fat and sugar, to one which is high in fibre, then quite rapidly you see a change in the microbiome,” he tells host of Insight, Jenny Brockie.
Mosley says adding prebiotic fibre to your diet can encourage the growth of good bacteria. He suggests foods like onions, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus and bananas. And when it comes to carbohydrates like rice and pasta, cooking and cooling and then reheating can increase the amount of fibre, making it more resistant to digestion.
The ratio of protein to carbohydrates that we eat is also important, encouraging our bacteria and body to work cooperatively with each other. Andrew Holmes, a microbiologist, says a low protein, complex carbohydrate diet has the most dramatic influence on how the microbes operate.
“So a high fibre diet is basically giving the microbes a carbon source … but they can’t grow on carbon alone. They also need other nutrients, in particular nitrogen, and that part they get from us. So they have to cooperate and that promotes a beneficial outcome,” he told Insight.
For more information or to read about foods rich in fibre you can head to the CSIRO or check out the video above to see what an ideal day for your gut health might look like.
Take a look at a recipe from The Clever Guts Diet below to see how to cook for a healthy gut.
Phyto Burst Lunchbox
This recipe is packed with vegetables that are rich in phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are the chemicals that protect plants from damage and disease and also provide us with great health benefits because of their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. “Eating them helps to preserve the microbial balance in the gut, keeping it in good working order. The key is to eat a wide range of colours, aiming for two or more of each per day” says Mosley.