Live Better
 
 

Feed your gut flora

Change your gut, change how you feel. Dietitian Simone Austin explains how to help the good bacteria in your gut flourish – and how that can boost your health.

Smoothie bowl with fresh berries, nuts, seeds and homemade granola for healthy breakfast

One of the topics currently getting the nutrition and medical world excited is gut flora, also known as the gut microbiome. These are microorganisms like bacteria, fungi and viruses living in your gastrointestinal tract, otherwise known as your gut. We all have our own unique colony.

Why all the interest about a bunch of bacteria in our digestive systems? We are learning that the gut microbiome has an influence on many aspects of our health, ranging from digestion to immune function to mental health. It is responsible for:

  • Protecting against harmful bacteria by lining the gut and making antimicrobial compounds.
  • Making vitamin K and a variety of B group vitamins.
  • Digesting carbohydrates such as fibres in the colon that would not be otherwise broken down, like resistant starch and insoluble fibres. This produces short chain fatty acids and gases that are beneficial for the health of the colon, and in some cases protective against colon cancer (eg. butyrate).
  • Producing chemicals that enter the blood stream and ‘talk’ to other organs like the brain and liver.
  • Aiding digestion and bowel function. Disruption of gut microbiota may also have influence on conditions such as obesity, non-alcoholic liver disease, anxiety and depression, but the method is still not understood.

How to change your gut flora

One of the most exciting parts is that we can make positive changes to the gut flora and its function with the way we eat.

You can quite quickly change your gut colony – changes have been seen in a number of days when people change from a high animal-based diet to one that is plant-based.

Feed it with fibre

With the right food, your gut flora will flourish – just like fertilising your garden plants at home. In particular, the good bacteria in your guts feed on certain types of dietary fibre. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend eating at least 25 g of fibre per day for women, and 30 g per day for men.

Dietary fibre is found in plant foods, and many of these contain a combination of fibre types, so stock up on those fruit and veggies, wholegrain breads and cereals. Here is where you can find the fibre types you need:

  • Insoluble fibre. This type of fibre helps bulk up stools and keep you regular. You can find it in wholegrains, nuts, seeds, legumes and the outer skin of fruits and vegetables.
  • Soluble fibre. This slows the breakdown of carbohydrates, keeping you feeling full and preventing blood sugar spikes. To get soluble fibre, eat fruits and vegetables, legumes and oats.
  • Prebiotic fibre. This is a type of soluble fibre that feeds gut bacteria that help absorb certain nutrients and stimulate hormone production. It is found in cereal grains, vegetables (including asparagus, onions, garlic and cabbage), legumes (like chickpeas and lentils), fruit (such as bananas and nectarines) and nuts. This is an exciting area of research, but we still need to learn more.
  • Resistant starch. This is formed when you cook some carbohydrate foods (for example potatoes and pasta) and let them cool. It is also found in underipe bananas and overnight soaked oats. The starch is resistant to digestion in the small intestines and passes to the large, where it stimulates bacteria to produce butyrate gas. This helps keeps the colon lining healthy.

To maximise your gut microbiota with dietary fibre, aim for the simple nutrition message of ‘two and five’ – two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables each day. Throw in a handful of nuts, some wholegrain breads and cereals and legumes and you might have the best looking ‘gut garden’ around.

Prime it with probiotics

Another ingredient for gut health is probiotics – introducing some good bacteria to your gut to help improve the balance.

This is particularly important after a course of antibiotics, which can wipe out lots of gut bacteria. Generally for a health benefit you need to pick a bacteria strain that is specific, for example, looking for immune benefits or bowel regularity.

You can find various types of probiotics in foods like yoghurt (check the quantities of probiotics as some can be low), milk drinks like kefir, and other fermented foods like kombucha (be careful if making your own – you only want beneficial strains of bacteria!), kimchi, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut (only if not pasteurised, as this will kill the bacteria) and sourdough bread.

Latest Articles

Food

Antipasto barbecue chicken recipe

A deliciously easy mix, with juicy veggies, olives and feta.

Read more
Food

Protein ice cream recipe

An easy, refreshing sweet treat.

Read more
Food

Mushroom Chinese stir-fry recipe

Deliciously flavoursome with a kick of spice.

Read more
Food

Should you try these gut health trends?

Nutritionist Reece Carter explores colonics and more.

Read more
Food

Thai curry pumpkin and coconut soup recipe

A rich and creamy pumpkin soup from Smith & Deli.

Read more
Healthy Kids

Design a spice garden

Create your own spice garden for endless flavours.

Read more
Food

10 tips for healthy festive eating

Have your mince pie and eat it too. Dietitian Simone Austin shares a few tips.

Read more
Healthy Kids

Fried rice lettuce cups

Crunchy, fresh and delicious — the kids will love these.

Read more
youtubeui-checkbox-tickui-checkbox-emptyui-checkbox-crosstwitterui-checkbox-tickWellbeing and mindfulness 1Physical Health 1Positive psychology 101 1Wellbeing and mindfulness 4All about gut health 1Understanding Genetics 4Planning for Pregnancy 2During Pregnancy 3The mind-gut connection 4The mind-gut connection 1New Parents 3Page 1Group 10During Pregnancy 2Page 1Physical Health 2Planning for Pregnancy 1Positive psychology 101 1Positive psychology 101 4Planning for Pregnancy 4Understanding Genetics 1Physical Health 4Planning for Pregnancy 3Nutrition 4New Parents 1New Parents 3 CopyMovement for your mind 4Wellbeing and mindfulness 2Nutrition 2sob-icon__mind-bodysob-icon__man-with-laptopAll about gut health 2Positive psychology 101 3Positive psychology 101 2Physical Health 3Wellbeing and mindfulness 3All about gut health 3genetics-changing-what-your-givenUnderstanding Genetics 2During Pregnancy 1Movement for your mind 2Movement for your mind 1Movement for your mind 3During Pregnancy 4