- Avoid excessive use of antibiotics
- Include fermented foods like idli and dhokla in your diet
- Make sure your diet includes sufficient fibre
A healthy gut strengthens the immune system, prevents heart disease, and supports better working of the nervous system and digestive system. It reduces the chance of developing cancers and other autoimmune diseases. Furthermore, it is worth noting that 70% of serotonin (which is a happy neurotransmitter) is made in the gut. So, your gut also affects your mood, anxiety, depression and behaviour.
The gut has trillions of microbes (fungi, virus and bacteria), which play a crucial role in digestion, weight management, and immune function. What you eat is not just nutrition for you, but also for the trillions of bacteria that live in your gut. They can lower incidences of having asthma, autism, irritable bowel syndrome, liver disease, diabetes, Parkinson's, colic, and several other allergies.
Gut health: Diet tips to improve gut flora and overall gut health
1. Add fermented foods to your diet
Fermented foods are rich in probiotics that are live bacteria and yeast. You can add yogurt, buttermilk, fermented batter in the form of idli, dosa, dhokla, kanji, kefirs, miso, or kimchi in your diet each day to receive the multitude of benefits it has. Ranging from better digestive functions, detoxification, to better immunity.
2. Curb intake of processed foods
Processed and refined foods like flour, sugar, oils, and other packaged food items- are a strict no, no. They affect your blood sugar levels due to their effect on the gut microbiota. Moreover, if you have a diet high in processed foods and added sugar, the amount of gut bacteria present will decrease. This imbalance will further lead to having more sugar cravings and hence, a further damage.
3. Eat more fibre
Fibre is naturally found in fruits and vegetables. Having a diet rich in different types of dietary fibre encourages diversity and stimulates the growth of probiotic bacteria, which feed on non-digestible carbohydrates called prebiotics. You can include, asparagus, banana, chicory, garlic, onions, whole grains, legumes, or beans.
4. Eat a plant-based diet
A vegetarian diet can lead to reduced levels of disease causing bacteria in obese individuals, as well as reduced weight, inflammation and cholesterol levels. Whole grains have non-digestible carbohydrates, such as beta glucan. They aren't absorbed by the small intestine and make their way to the large intestine, where they are broken by the microbes. This also promote their growth. So, having a plant based diet improve your gut health as it is also easier to digest by the body and assimilate. You can have more nuts and seeds, healthy oils like extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, spirulina, wide range of fruits and vegetables and grains.
5. Eat foods rich in polyphenols
Polyphenols are plant compounds that have health benefits like reducing blood pressure, inflammation, oxidative stress, and cholesterol levels. Few good sources of polyphenols that you can include are- green tea, almonds, broccoli, blueberries, dark chocolate, and grapes.
6. Avoid excessive use of antibiotics
Antibiotics kill the infection causing bacteria but at the same time also kill the good bacteria in the gut. Hence, take antibiotics only when it is absolutely necessary. And once you have ceased to take them, have more probiotic and prebiotic food options to restore the gut microbes.
Other than the above tips, you should read the labels. It's important to know what food is it that you are feeding your gut with. Further, instead of having more packaged foods or probiotics like fruit flavoured yogurt, get into the habit of setting the curd at home for a diverse strain of bacteria. You can also make vegetable raita, which is an ideal combination of pre- and probiotic foods. Also, it is important to manage your stress and sleep, for that has a profound impact on gut health. Health and wellness is achieved by introducing those small, mindful changes and sticking by them for a better tomorrow.
(Nmami Agarwal is nutritionist at Nmami Life)
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