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Ways to improve your gut bacteria

There are hundreds of species of bacteria in our gut acting like an army to protect the integrity of the gut wall, boost overall gut health, improve our mood, control our hormones and protect us from viruses and bugs. If you want to be healthy then you need a healthy microbiome.

Here are a few tips to improve your gut microbiome.

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1

Eat more fibre. The Western diet is typically low in low in fibre and the UK follows this trend with an average intake of 18g/day. For health gut flora we need closer to 30g of fibre a day. This means eating more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans and pulses. A diverse diet can result in a more diverse microbiome.

2

Add prebiotic foods to your diet. Prebiotics are a type of non-digestible fibre found in certain plant foods that travel through the intestine. On their journey they ferment then become food for pre-existing bacteria, stimulating their growth and improving diversity. The main compound in plant food fibre is inulin. Inulin is particularly rich in onions, garlic, leeks, bananas, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes and chicory root. Other prebiotic compounds include the soluble dietary fibres beta-glucans in grains, particularly barley and oats and pectin in apples.

3

Eat resistance starch each day. Resistance starch is a type of prebiotic starch that resists digestion until it makes it to the colon. Once there it acts as food for bacteria. Examples of where to find resistant starch are unripe (green) green bananas, legumes, linseeds, wholegrains, raw potato starch and toasted bread that has been cooked from frozen,

4

Consume fermented food daily. Fermented food such as kefir, kimchi, kombucha tea, sauerkraut and yogurt contain live beneficial bacteria that can reach the gut intact and colonise it. These bacteria are fairly transient, so you’ll need to eat the foods regularly. If you eat yogurt though, eat plain live yogurt as flavoured yogurts are generally high in sugar. Fermented foods are widely available in supermarkets and health shops and are easy to do at home.

5

Eat foods rich in polyphenols. Polyphenols are micronutrients packed with antioxidants that nourish and maintain healthy gut flora. They are not absorbed efficiently and often make it to the colon where gut bacteria digest them. Examples include dark chocolate, blueberries and grapes, nuts, seeds, olives and broccoli.

6

Avoid processed food. These are usually high in saturated fat, sugar artificial sweeteners and low in fibre and nutrients.

7

Minimise alcohol intake and don’t smoke. Alcohol is turned to sugar in the gut and too much sugar is toxic for gut bacteria.

8

Take a short fast. The composition of our gut bacteria is constantly changing depending on what we eat and drink during a day and environmental triggers such as stress. Research confirms that fasting every now and then for 16 to 24 hours can improve diversity and composition.

9

Make some lifestyle changes. Do plenty of exercise – it has been found to improve the diversity of gut flora. Stress less. Socialise – you’ll find yourself sharing bacteria! Have a pet. Do some gardening.

10

Take a probiotic supplement. These are capsules containing live microorganisms. These can be helpful restoring the microbiome to good health if you are recovering from an illness or have taken a course of antibiotics recently. Once the bottle has been opened, they should be kept in the fridge.

Learn more about nutrition in my best-selling book ‘How to Prevent Burnout’ and my latest book, Life Force. The revolutionary 7-step plan for optimum energy’.

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