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3 things to know about your gut

Your gut microbiome plays a significant role in your holistic wellness – here are a few ways you can keep your gut healthy and happy, writes Dr Alena Pribyl.

Fibre breakdown

Fibre is the main energy source for our beneficial gut bacteria. By consequence, not eating enough fibre can result in reduced numbers of beneficial bacteria and increased levels of bacteria that use alternate energy sources, such as the mucus lining our gut.

The moral of the story is: try to eat more fibre such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, wholegrain cereals, nuts and legumes to avoid degrading the protective mucus layer within the gut.

Short-chain fatty acid production

One of the most important roles our gut microbes play is to produce beneficial substances that help keep our gut healthy. These substances, called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), are generated as our microbes break down fibre.

SCFAs play many important roles such as reducing inflammation, maintaining the gut cell barrier, regulating appetite, balancing glucose levels and promoting serotonin production in the gut – which helps with gut motility (i.e. keeping you regular). Increasing your intake of prebiotic fibres such as resistant starch found in lentils, peas, rolled oats and green bananas can help fuel the production of SCFAs.

Diversity of species

The more species you have in your gut microbiome, the harder it is for pathogens to colonise and wreak havoc on your health and the easier it is for your gut to bounce back after a disturbance.

Reduced microbiome diversity has been linked to several diseases, including non-gut-related conditions, while increased microbiome diversity has been linked to good gut and overall health. To boost your microbial diversity, eat a variety of fibre-rich foods, including colourful vegetables, whole grains and seasonal fruits.

By making sure you have plenty of fibre-rich whole foods in your diet, you can help your gut microbiome perform these important functions that can contribute to a healthy gut. Excitingly, you can test the bugs in your gut, assess their potential to produce short-chain fatty acids, and see your own personal “diversity score” with sampling kits through your natural medicine practitioner.

Dr Alena Pribyl is a senior scientist at Microba.