Health experts say that the key to your fitness and health depends on your gut. More specifically, it depends on the gut bacteria that helps digest and absorb the food in your diet. Every individual’s gut is home to a mix of gut bacteria, and diet and lifestyle plays a significant role in determining the mix. It also impacts your weight loss efforts. “Gut healthis indicative of overall health. Research has found links between people with certain types of bacteria in the gut and diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and colon cancer. A healthy gut acts as a barrier against toxins. Therefore, it is important to build the right kind of ecosystem within the bowels to process food and stave off illness,” says Dr Vaishali Lokhande, Consultant, Internal Medicine, Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai.
The most plentiful and important bacteria in the small intestine is the Lactobacillus species (a gut-friendly microbe). “Lactobacillus ferments indigestible carbohydrates and supports the breakdown of sugar in dairy products, which are a common source of food sensitivities. Intestinal microbiota also help in proper development of the immune system,” says Bhakti Samant, Chief Dietician Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital.
While some foods can help to boost your gut health, junk food items like pizzas and burgers harm the intestinal microbiota leading to gastric discomfort.
“Fast food is empty of fibre and has high amounts of refined sugar, salt, fats and oils, which are difficult for the gut to break down. They also delay gut movement exposing the bowels to toxins and carcinogens. Too much junk food can irritate the lining of bowels and slow down digestion making you feel bloated. A high-fat diet also triggers an immune response leading to inflammation and tissue damage. Chronic inflammation can make one prone to cancer,” says Dr Lokhande.
So, what should you eat for good gut health? Here’s what the experts advise:
Foods packed with probiotics are good for the gut. “Food items like curd, yoghurt, buttermilk, lassi and smoothies are gut-friendly. Fortified drinks like yakult or chewable tablets are a good source of Lactobacillus as well,” says Samant. During stomach infections, a diet of curd rice can promote lactobacillus bacteria in the gut.
Flaxseeds are rich in antioxidants and soluble fibres, which promote gut flora. “Ground flaxseeds can be added to any dish to improve fibrous content,” says Dr Lokhande.
Bananas are rich in fibre, potassium and magnesium. “It can fight inflammation and aid digestion,” says Dr Lokhande.
Apple and apple cider vinegar
Apple is a source of pectin, which is beneficial for removing toxins from the body. It also restores the balance of bacteria in the gut and reduces inflammation, says Dr Lokhande.
Eating whole grain and high-fibre foods like oats, nuts and seeds boosts the digestion process; nuts are also rich in antioxidants.