There’s a lot of talk about gut health these days. Food and drug companies are introducing more products that promote a healthy gut, and people are taking more of an interest in the importance of good bacteria in our digestion. As it turns out, the connection between a healthy digestive system and our overall wellbeing is greater than we realized. 

A healthy gut can contribute to a strong immune system, heart health, brain function, improved moods, healthy sleep and effective digestion. The majority of bacteria in the body can be found in the gut (there are trillions!). Collectively known as the gut microbiome, there are good and bad variations. Good bacteria are a key component in our overall health and may even help prevent some cancers and autoimmune diseases, so it’s important to ensure the good outweigh the bad. 

But how do you know if the bad bacteria are winning? These are some common gut-wrenching signs that your gut is out of balance: 

  • Stomach discomfort 
  • Fatigue  
  • Food cravings
  • Unintentional weight changes
  • Skin irritation
  • Allergies
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Mood issues
  • Migraines 

So how do you improve your gut health? Here are five food tips that can help give good gut:  

Mix it up

There are many forms of bacteria in the intestines. Each serves a different purpose, so having a diverse microbiome is key. This means consuming a variety of whole foods that are unprocessed and unrefined. Opt for whole grains, beans and legumes, unsalted nuts and seeds, lean meats and fish, eggs, fruits and veggies. 

Feast on fibre

Fruits and vegetables are high in fibre and nutrients, so eating them is the best way to create a healthy gut microbiome. Your body can’t digest fibre, however certain good bacteria in the gut can. This promotes their growth, which is a strong contributor to good gut health, so fill up on fibre.

Choose plants first

A diet packed with fruits and vegetables is believed to reduce bad gut bacteria, promote weight loss, and combat inflammation and high cholesterol levels. Plant-based foods, particularly the green leafy ones, are rich in nutrients that encourage growth of good and fight off bad bacteria. 

Favour the fermented

Fermented foods have been through a preserving process that breaks down their sugars with yeast or bacteria, providing your gut with healthy probiotics. Consuming foods like plain yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh and miso can improve the microbiome and fend off pathogens that feed many body ailments. 

The power of polyphenols

Polyphenols are micronutrients that can be found in plants – and they’re packed with antioxidants. Like fibre, the body can’t always digest them, which means they find their way to the intestines where gut bacteria breaks them down. Polyphenols are found in such delicious foods as dark chocolate and cocoa, red wine, onions, blueberries and broccoli. 

The gut breaks food down into a form that can be easily delivered as nutrients throughout the body. Too much bad bacteria in the gut can lead to weight gain, high blood sugar, elevated cholesterol and other diseases and disorders. To support a strong immune system, be careful how you treat your gut by choosing quality foods, and remember that your gut is the epicentre of your overall health.