What is gut health and why should I care?
Maintaining a healthy gut is bedrock to good nutrition as this is where most of the magic happens as food is broken down and nutrients are absorbed. An unhealthy gut, on the other hand, is believed to have consequences that extend far beyond tummy troubles.
There’s a lot of interest in the role of the gut on mood and depression in particular. According to Professor John Cryan of University College Cork:
“We now know that good brain health depends on good gut health. The gut microbiome affects every aspect of brain functioning and human behaviour.”
So changing what you eat can actually help make you feel better, and there’s increasing evidence demonstrating its effectiveness. According to a study carried out by the UK’s Food and Mood project, led by mental health charity Mind, nearly 90% of people found that changing their diet significantly improved their mental health.
A healthy gut can also help with better weight loss and weight management. No matter what diet or training regime you follow, you will not get results if your gut is not working optimally, according to Dublin-based functional medicine expert Dr Fionnula McHale:
“The organisms that reside in our gastrointestinal tract have been shown to play a role in our ability to drop body fat”
Your gut is full of microbes – bacteria, viruses and fungi and you’ve got way more in your body than you might have imagined. An average adult has about 1-2kg of microbes; similar to our brain. Only a few microbes cause disease; most are beneficial and live in peaceful coexistence in and on our bodies. We need them and they need us. And if our microbes aren’t healthy, neither are we.
They key to a healthy gut is to have as diverse a range of gut microbes as possible. According to Cryan:
“We know that the more diverse your microbiome, the less likely you are to be frail or have cognitive impairment. And a diverse diet is what drives a diverse microbiome”
Perhaps the best way to cultivate a healthier microbiome is to add more fibre to your diet by eating eat mostly unprocessed and natural foods such as:
1. Whole grains (including oats)
2. Fruit & vegetables
3. Pulses, beans & lentils
4. Nuts and seeds.
Other foods that are good for your gut include natural yogurt and fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi.
On the other hand, if your diet is unhealthy and rich in sugary or processed foods then there is a good chance that the good bacteria in your gut will become weakened, which can affect overall health and immunity.
To prove how damaging highly processed foods can be to our guts, Professor Tim Spector of King’s College London designed a fascinating experiment. His son Tom ate a diet of McDonald’s for ten days (Tom was a college kid who was looking an idea for his final year thesis!). The results were startling – comparing his gut flora before and after revealed that he had lost 40% of his gut bacteria!
According to Prof Spector, the key is to eat everything and exclude nothing: “Treat your gut like a garden, that you nourish, fertilise and sprinkle with seeds.”
3 reasons why ProMix is good for gut health:
1. Nuts, seeds and dried fruits are high in soluble and insoluble fibre which encourages the growth of good bacteria.
2. Nuts such as cashews and almonds contain prebiotics that help to keep the good bacteria in your gut healthy.
3. Nuts are free from inflammatory preservatives, unhealthy fats and added sugars that fertilize bad bacteria.