What is Gut Health?

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The terms ‘gut health’ or ‘gut wellness’ have increased in popularity in the last several years, especially when referring to conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and digestive cancers. There is ample information circulating out there and one can find themselves getting lost but put simply, ‘gut health’ refers to your gut microbiome. 

So, what is your gut microbiome?  This is an environment with a unique population of mostly bacteria that line the gastrointestinal tract. There are more than 1000 different species of bacteria and trillions of micro-organisms. Scientists have found links between the microbiome and many aspects of health including the immune system, cardio-metabolic health, and digestive symptoms.  

There are many ways you can promote a healthy gut and help gut bacteria thrive in a healthy manner. According to the Irish dietary guidelines, we should consume between 24-35g of fibre per day, a recommendation which only 1 in 5 people actually meet. Fibre helps keep bowel movements regular, reduces constipation, and helps one feel fuller for longer. You can consume more fibre simply by increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, beans, and lentils.  

Probiotics and prebiotics are another great way to feed your gut microbiome. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast. Prebiotics are non-digestible food substances that are used by gut bacteria. You can see both within food or in supplement form. For example, probiotic sources are in foods such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, kombucha, and tempeh (fermented foods). Prebiotics can be found in foods like bananas, leeks, onions, asparagus, artichoke, and oats. 

Lastly, as with most things, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can always help your health even when it comes to gut. Some examples are making meal times mindful, staying hydrated, moderating intake of caffeine and alcohol, regular physical activity, getting 7-8 hours of sleep, and managing stress.