Your gut is home to an entire ecosystem of gut microbiota (bacteria), which has a holistic influence on your health. There are tens of trillions of microorganisms (consisting of at least 1000 different species of known bacteria) that are responsible for helping our digestive systems break down food, filter toxins, absorb vitamins, support the immune system, and balance hormone levels that affect our moods.
As a home doctor I always advise patients to look after their children’s and their own gut health, because so many elements of life can throw gut bacteria out of balance. In most cases you can keep your gut happy and healthy by eating a diet high in probiotic bacteria and prebiotic carbohydrates, as these promote the growth and activity of good bacteria.
Together, probiotics and prebiotic carbohydrates can give you great gut health, which evidence suggests can:
• Improve your immune system;
• Improve your quality of sleep;
• Boost your energy levels;
• Improve any skin conditions, such as acne and eczema;
• Help alleviate Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS);
• Reduce the risk of some cancers;
• And contribute to weight loss.
Luckily, you don’t need to travel to the remote depths of the Amazon rainforest to find nutritional food that gives you probiotics and prebiotics. Here’s my list of gut-friendly food you can find at your local supermarket.
Probiotic Food Groups
1. Yogurt brands which say, “contains live, active cultures” are fantastic for replenishing good bacteria within the gastrointestinal tract. This is because they contain communities of probiotic bacteria. In some yogurt brands, the heat process of making yogurt can kill off the good bacteria, taking away its probiotic effect. Goat milk is particularly high in probiotics (such as thermophillus, bifudus, and bulgaricus).
2. Sauerkraut and Kimchi (Asian-form of pickled sauerkraut) are both fermented, highly nutritional vegetables, which contain live, bacteria cultures. Sauerkraut may help in reducing allergy symptoms and Kimchi can promote healthy digestion.
3. Dark chocolate is fermented in our guts by friendly bacteria. Once there, it fends off nasty bacteria and reinforces the gut’s immune defences. Other health benefits of dark chocolate include improved blood flow, lower risk of heart disease, improved brain function, decreased risk of diabetes, reduced stress and fatigue.
Prebiotic Food Groups
1. Bananas are rich in vitamins, minerals and prebiotics. They soothe the gut membrane and contain natural fibers that promote good bacteria growth. They source fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a cluster of fructose molecules that feeds beneficial Bifidobacteria bacteria. When bananas are green, they also act as a source of resistant starch, which is another form of prebiotic. Bananas can assist with bloating and easier digestion of food.
2. Asparagus, leeks, onions, and Jerusalem artichokes are great sources of prebiotics for to boost friendly bacteria for gut health. All four vegetables have prebiotic inulin content and FOS, which strengthens gut flora, helps breaking down fat and boosts the immune system.
3. Garlic & Ginger is beneficial for good gut flora, and also kills off bad flora and fungi. Raw ginger and garlic are both antimicrobial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory. This means they promote good digestion by keeping harmful bacteria under control. Additionally, ginger has be known to help relieve nausea, vomiting, motion sickness and loss of appetite.
If you’re feeling sick in the stomach frequently, seek medical advice from your local GP or request a house call from a mobile doctor service.
Dr Ryan Harvey is the Deputy Clinical Director at House Call Doctor. Dr Harvey is highly experienced in paediatrics, and has administered medical care to children living in remote overseas communities. He now works with many families, administering acute care when unexpected medical situations arise overnight.