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Gastrointestinal Microbiota - this is the technical name for what some call gut flora, gastrointestinal microbes, or just good stomach bugs. In short - gut microbiota. This term refers to the whole community of bugs (including bacteria) that live in our intestines. The gut is an area of the body that is beginning to receive a lot of attention, because of the potential for the far-reaching links it has to our general health and wellbeing.

Typically the gut is home to several thousand types of bacteria, as well as other microbes such as viruses and yeast. There will be lots of some, and almost none of others. This is normal, as the exact makeup of each person's microbiota is unique, just like a fingerprint, but unlike a fingerprint...it is constantly changing.

Why your gut health matters:

New evidence from scientific studies shows that gut microbiota, and its changes, can influence things like sleep, anxiety, depression, and immune response. In turn, microbiota are affected by things like drastic changes in diet, and antibiotics. It is still being studied how these links can benefit treatments, however, early results are promising.

It has already been established that stress contributes to the onset of mental illness, and can affect physical health. Studies are now showing that stress also effects gut microbiota. A diverse mix of microbiota in the gut has been shown to be more resilient to the changes caused by stress, and illness.
Having a healthy gut can also improve mood, improve sleep quality and reduce fatigue. Large-scale studies also continue to show that people who eat a balanced diet, with all the good stuff (like fibre, fresh fruit, and vegetables) have lower rates of mental illness as adolescents and adults. 

This is why it is important to consider our own communities of gut microbiota in our diets.

How to improve you microbiota:

Eating a diverse range of foods will promote a diverse range of microbiota in the gut. It is also important to eat a diet high in fruit and vegetables as the fibre promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Some high fibre vegetables are artichokes, green peas, and broccoli. Wholegrains, chickpeas, beans (kidney, pinto, and white) and lentils are also high fibre foods.

Also, like our previous post about sauerkraut, fermented foods are rich in good bacteria.

Other fermented foods include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and tempeh. These all can help get more good bacteria to the gut to balance the mix of microbiota.

Foods that are rich in polyphenols are also known to improve gut health. Green tea, cacao, dark chocolate, almonds, blueberries, onions, and broccoli all contain polyphenols. Red wine also contains polyphenols, but like all alcohols, it should be consumed responsibly and in moderation.

Probiotics vs Prebiotics

Another type of food that improves your microbiota, are prebiotics.  While probiotics are live bacteria found in yogurt, other dairy products, fermented foods and pills, prebiotics are a specialized plant fibre that provides nourishment for the good bacteria in the gut.

So you can think of it like a garden - probiotics add to the good bacteria in the gut, while prebiotics helps the ones already in the gut thrive, a bit like fertilizer.

Probiotics are fragile, they can be damaged or killed by heat or stomach acid. It is also possible that some good bacteria might not suit our own individual mix of microbiota. So prebiotics are a great way to bolster your gut health. Some prebiotic foods are artichoke, leek, onion, garlic, asparagus, chicory root, and banana.

In short , adding probiotic foods to your diet will help introduce good bacteria to your gut. So add a jar of Sauerkraut, Fermented Slaw, Superkraut (all still on special this week), a little cheese or yoghurt to your order this week....then don't forget to feed those microbiota by adding prebiotic foods to your diet. 

Asparagus and Leeks are fantastic at the moment, so make sure they are at the top of your list when placing your order this week. 

Give your gut health a boost!