Did you know that your gut has a huge impact on your general health and well-being way beyond simply digesting your food? The relationship between the gut and health is complex, but much of it is related to the gut bacteria that live there. There are in fact, trillions of bacteria inhabiting the digestive tract, comprising a mixture of beneficial, neutral and harmful bacteria.
To put it simply, the more of the ‘good’ or ‘friendly’ bacteria you have and the less of the bad ones, the better the influence they will have on your health. A favourable balance of gut bacteria means you will be more likely to have a strong immune system, be a healthy weight and they may even improve mental well being. Imbalances in gut bacteria on the other hand, have been linked to many health problems including obesity, depression, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, food intolerances, allergies, eczema and infections.
So how do we ensure that we have more of the good guys and less of the bad? Diet of course! Although genes and other factors are believed to play a role, the composition and activity of the gut bacteria is very much influenced by our diet and we can actively improve it by making certain changes to our diet, as outlined below.
Probiotics and Prebiotics
Probiotics are live microorganisms (bacteria or yeasts) that have beneficial health effects. They are often referred to as ‘friendly’ bacteria, as they help keep the gut healthy. They occur naturally in the body but can also be taken in foods and supplements. They work in two key ways; firstly they can help restore the natural balance of the gut flora after it has been disrupted – after antibiotics for example. Secondly they help to balance the good and bad bacteria in the gut, by literally pushing the bad guys out.
Prebiotics are carbohydrates or fibres that reach the gut relatively unchanged, as the body cannot digest them. Here they feed the friendly bacteria so that more of them grow and thrive and their numbers therefore increase and outnumber the bad guys.
Beauty & Go drinks contain a special type of fibre, extracted from fruits and vegetables called antioxidant dietary fibre. Antioxidant dietary fibre combines both antioxidant properties and the benefits of dietary fibre, in one substance. It passes into the large intestine undigested where it has a prebiotic effect, feeding and encouraging the good bacteria. In addition, the antioxidants attached to the fibre do their magic here as well, helping to keep the environment of the gut even healthier.
Regular, daily intake of Beauty & Go drinks, over time may therefore contribute to maintaining a healthy gut environment and a favourable balance of gut bacteria.
Other ways to improve your gut health
Include Probiotic Foods
- Live Yoghurt – if you do not tolerate dairy well, try sheep’s, soya or coconut yogurt instead
- Fermented foods such as sauerkraut and pickles
- Miso, tempeh, soy sauce, fermented tofu and natto
- Kombucha – a fermented drink made from tea
Include Prebiotic Foods
- Tomatoes, asparagus, onions, garlic, artichoke, chicory and bananas are the best sources
- Beauty & Go drinks
Eat More Fibre
- Eat plenty of plant based foods including whole-grains, pulses, fruit and vegetables to provide fibre which keeps the gut healthy
- Give your levels a boost or top up, either after taking antibiotics (which kill off both good and bad bacteria) or if you have one of the health conditions discussed. Consulting a nutritionist is advisable before taking supplements.
- People who have used antibiotics, have been eating a poor diet, or have suffered with diarrhoea are more likely to have lower levels of friendly bacteria, as all of these can wipe out the good guys.
What the Experts Say
Research has found that the intestinal flora of obese individuals differs to that of thin people and some trials have found that probiotic supplements can support weight loss (1). In a 2013 study, participants taking probiotics from the Lactobacillus rhamnosus family lost 4.4kg in 12 weeks, compared to 2.6kg in the placebo group. The probiotic group also continued to lose more weight after the 12 weeks, while weight in the placebo group remained stable.
Probiotics help keep the digestive system healthy and can improve digestion in general as well as helping to alleviate common digestive problems such as IBS, constipation and bloating (2). Supplements have been shown to reduce abdominal bloating and flatulence in some people with IBS, and may also help relieve pain and provide general relief to sufferers. (3)
Probiotics and prebiotics may help people with food allergies and intolerances due to their ability to improve digestion and regulate the immune system (4). Probiotics have also been shown to help with other allergic conditions including hay fever (6). Other conditions that have been studied with beneficial results, include eczema, travellers diarrhoea, thrush and tooth decay.
A recent interesting area of research is into gut bacteria and mental health. It is know that stress has a negative effect on the balance of the gut bacteria (7,8), so scientists are now looking into whether probiotic and prebiotic foods or supplements could benefit mental well being.