Unpacking the importance of a healthy gut and its impact on your health and wellbeing
If you’ve been following the latest health trends you’ll know that gut health is a topical theme within the health and wellness sphere. According to the latest research by Gut Microbiota News Watch, the status of your gut microbes can impact everything from your body’s inflammation and weight; to your skin, brain health and most importantly your state of mind.
According to Professor Harry Sokol, a gastroenterologist from Saint-Antoine Hospital in France, the gut microbiota is composed of trillions of microorganisms, mainly bacteria. The gut microbiota is under the double influence of genetic and environmental factors such as whether you were born by a caesarian or normal birth. It’s critical to care for the gut because it plays a key role for important body functions including metabolism (the breaking down of food to nutrients), building the immune system and even brain function.
Poor gut, poor health
Dysbiosis (alteration of gut microbiota composition or functions) can be related to many environmental factors, including bad eating habits. When there is dysbiosis one can expect many intestinal and extra intestinal diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, and neuropsychiatric diseases. This is why targeting the microbiota as a preventive or therapeutic strategy is particularly relevant and diet can be used for this purpose.
“Feel good” hormone
Aside from the onset of diseases later on in life there are many immediate benefits of good gut health, such as the effect on one’s mood. One of the biggest influencers of mood in your body is a neurotransmitter (chemical messengers) called serotonin. Serotonin is sometimes referred to as the “feel good” hormone because of its ability to impact mood, anxiety and happiness among other functions. While some serotonin is created and used in the brain, between 80 and 90 percent of it is created in the intestines — our gut.
There are a myriad of foods you can eat to promote healthy gut function such as fibre, good oils in avocado, fish and flaxseed to mention but a few, let’s take a closer look at everyday food like yoghurt. Yoghurt is produced when milk is inoculated and fermented with two strains of live cultures: Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. By SA regulation, both of these cultures have to be present in the quantity of 10 million colony forming units per gram of product. These bacteria help to transform the lactose (milk sugar) into lactic acid, making it better tolerated by those individuals who have difficulty digesting lactose and can help improve our overall gut health. A digestive system that works well will provide the appropriate nutrient absorption, intestinal motility (bowel movements), immune function, and a balanced microbiota (the community of microorganisms that live in the gut)
“To maintain a happy gut, yoghurt is a simple food that should form part your daily diet. It’s a smart choice because above and beyond the live cultures, yoghurt is a convenient, nutrient-dense food to fulfil one of the 3 servings of dairy every day” says Monique Piderit, Dietician in private practice and a member of the South African Yoghurt Advisory. Yoghurt is not just a snack, it can be part of the hero ingredients in your daily meals, such as pairing yoghurt with fruit and cereal or healthy nuts like almonds for breakfast, using yoghurt for salad dressings and adding your favourite herbs and spices to create a creamy tangy dip.