Don’t be grossed out – these little guys living in our stomach are our friends! The 1000 little bacteria species in our intestine are just trying to help us out. Why should you care? Believe it or not, these little guys in our stomach can have major impact on our health. Research has shown gut bacteria can have an effect on our mood, our cravings and even how much weight we might lose (or gain)! They also help provide essential nutrients, reduce inflammation and improve immunity.

What is gut microbiota?

All the different types of bacteria, fungi and viruses that live in our digestive system are collectively called the “gut microbiota”. They help keep our intestine lining healthy and absorb nutrients from food. Everyone’s gut microbiota is unique. Factors such as diet, lifestyle medication and stress can all have an influence over how much “good” or “bad” bacteria we have in our stomach. When it comes to gut microbiota, diversity is the key. Eating a balanced diet with a variety of whole foods can lead to a diverse microbiota, which is beneficial for our health and well-being.

What are probiotics and prebiotics?

Probiotics and prebiotics are important for keeping a healthy digestive system. Research has shown by including these foods in our diet, it can help improve mental health, fight inflammation and reduce risk of developing certain chronic conditions.

  • Probiotics – are the live cultures of good bacteria in our gut. These help change our intestinal bacteria to balance gut health.
  • Prebiotics – are the non-digestible dietary fibres found naturally in food. These help to promote the growth of good bacteria in our large intestine.

Foods naturally high in probiotics and prebiotics?

The table below provides a list of foods that contain natural sources of probiotics and prebiotics. These foods can be introduced as part of a healthy well-balanced diet.

Probiotics Prebiotics
Yoghurt Asparagus
Kombucha Beetroot
Tempeh Green peas
Kimchi Lentils/chickpeas
Sauerkraut Pomegranate
Pickles Grapefruit
Miso seasoning Rye bread
Buttermilk Barley
Onion
Garlic
Leek

Top tips to improve gut health:

A healthy digestive system is the foundation for good health and vitality. Here are some steps you can follow to improve your gut microbiota.

  • Ensure to incorporate lots of prebiotic foods in your diet as these will help your gut bacteria to grow and flourish
  • Try and minimise processed foods. Eating foods that are high in bad fats and processed sugar will reduce the amount of good bacteria in your digestive system.
  • Eat a high fibre diet rich in whole grains fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. The fibre will be used as a food source to grow more beneficial bacteria.
  • Only take antibiotics when absolutely necessary. As this can kill off the good bacteria in your stomach.

References:
Monash University. FAQs for the high fibre, high prebiotic diet. [cited 2017 August 4]. Available http://www.med.monash.edu.au/cecs/gastro/prebiotic/faq/
Healthy Food Guide. How healthy is your gut? [cited 2017 August 4]. Available http://www.healthyfoodguide.com.au/articles/2014/april/how-healthy-your-gut
Huffington Post. We know about probiotics, but what’s the deal with prebiotics? Available http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/11/07/we-know-about-probiotics-but-whats-the-deal-with-prebiotics_a_21600765/