“You are what you eat,” says that age-old proverb and it’s true too. Your diet is the key modifiable factor in your life which is under your control and can affect every aspect of your health and wellbeing. And in case you didn’t know, it’s your gut that mediates as the all-important link between your diet and your health.
The gut is actually a world of its own, a microbiome with trillions of microorganisms - especially bacteria. A study published in Nutrients in 2019 explains that most of these naturally-occurring healthy bacteria and microorganisms play essential roles in not just breaking down food into fuel but also in maintaining gut health and helping translate food into energy for different parts of the body. The gut forms alliances with major organ systems, like the gut-brain axis and the gut-lung axis, through which the health of those organ systems is also determined.
Creating a flourishing gut environment
Maintaining proper balance in the gut microbiome is essential for your health as an imbalance is likely to lead to not just gastrointestinal issues like irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease but also to metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, allergies, diabetes, acne, skin disease, colorectal cancer and even neurological disorders like dementia. A 2018 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health calls this state of imbalance dysbiosis, and it’s a condition that’s rather on the rise right now.
The primary reason behind gut dysbiosis in a large part of the global population today is a diet packed with junk food, saturated and trans fats, refined carbohydrates, processed food products and foods and beverages that contain excess salt and sugar. Not only are these foods not nutritious but they are also quite harmful to the gut microbiome. The empty calories and lack of nutrients supplied by these foods make it impossible for the gut microbiome to survive, let alone allow it to flourish and accomplish its crucial functions.
How to adopt a diet that restores your gut microbiome
If a faulty diet created an imbalance in your gut microbiome then it’s only a healthy diet that can put it right. Getting your gut microbiome back in order may seem like a difficult task, especially if you haven’t paid much attention to including healthy foods in your diet until now. In reality, just adopting a few key changes can restructure your diet enough to create a conducive environment in your gut for the healthy microorganisms to flourish.
1. Fermented favourites: Add more fermented foods to your diet, including yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha. These foods are probiotics, meaning that they promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria and help repair the stomach’s lining.
2. Fibre forever: Instead of eating junk that doesn’t fill your stomach, eat fibre-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, lentils, nuts and seeds. Not only do these foods help gut bacteria flourish but also help prevent the growth of unhealthy microbes while keeping you full and energetic for longer. The best part is that these foods also help keep excess weight gain and obesity at bay.
3. Prefer prebiotics: Just like probiotics, prebiotics promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria and fungi. A 2019 study published in Foods lists onions, garlic, oats, apples, bananas, barley, cocoa, flaxseeds and leafy greens as great sources of prebiotics.
4. Fluids and water: Drinking two to four litres of water every day can help flush out toxins from the body and make it easier for the gut microbiome to flourish. Drinking other nutritious fluids like buttermilk, lassi, lemonade, herbal and green teas and homemade soups can also help restore balance to your gut.
5. Skip the sweet: While resisting desserts and sweets may be difficult, you should know that eating excess refined sugar is the worst thing you can do to your gut microbiome. This also applies to sweetened beverages and fruit juices with artificial sweeteners. Skip these and go for the natural sweetness of jaggery, fresh fruits and dried fruits like dates, raisins and apricots instead.
For more information, read our article on How to improve digestion.
Health articles on News18 are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.