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Ancy K Sunny
Ancy K Sunny


Get a gut makeover


Make the right food choices for a healthy gut, body and mind

By now, most of us know about gut bacteria or gut flora—the complex community of microorganisms that reside in our gastrointestinal tract. It is common knowledge that these microbes influence digestion of food, our body metabolism and even allergies. However, new studies show that the effect of these microbes may extend much beyond our tummies, all the way to the brain.

Researchers around the world have been studying the way these microbes, which constitute over a thousand varieties of bacteria, influence the way we think, and how they play a crucial role in anxiety, depression and autism. The latest in the list to have a connection to gut flora is Alzheimer's disease. According to a path-breaking new research from Lund University in Sweden, certain kinds of gut bacteria accelerate the onset of Alzheimer's disease. In an experiment where scientists studied both healthy mice and those affected with Alzheimer's, they observed that the diseased mice have a different composition of gut bacteria. This research opens new opportunities for preventing and treating the disease.

We are really what we eat. Besides what we were born with, the kind of bacteria that resides in our intestines is largely determined by our diet. In fact, gut bacteria is a blueprint of your health, and that is why we need to maintain the quality of these microbes in the intestinal tract. Focus on your diet and help get your gut flora back on track.

More fibre intake

One of the easiest ways to encourage healthy growth of gut bacteria is to up your fibre intake. Fruits, vegetables, oats, legumes and lentils are great sources of dietary fibre. These high-fibre food promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria that are necessary for breaking down fibre in the stomach. Your gut will thank you more if you eat the veggies raw, with the skin intact.

More probiotics

Probiotics are live bacteria that are good for your health when ingested. While probiotic pills are available in the market, choose the natural path. Naturally fermented food like yoghurt is the best way to introduce healthy probiotics into your gut. Fermentation is no new-age heath fad; people have been fermenting food for thousands of years. While flavoured yogurts are available in plenty in the market, do not forget that these contain high levels of sugar. So, go for plain yoghurt, which is rich in lactobacilli bacteria, a type of bacteria that can enhance health, and even reduce the abundance of disease-causing bacteria in the gut.

Cut down on red meat

We have forever heard of red meat's link to heart disease. But what's interesting is that the whole problem starts from the gut, and needs to be fixed in the gut itself. When L-carnitine, an abundant nutrient found in red meat, comes in contact with our gut, gut bacteria transform it into trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) and gamma-butyrobetaine—both substances cause hardening and thickening of the arteries of the heart. Research shows that a meat-packed diet is not great for your health, also because it alters the healthy constitution of gut flora. In a 2014 study published in the journal Nature, the composition of gut microbiome changed dramatically within four days of subjects switching from a diet of all animal products to a vegetarian one, and vice versa.

Keep an eye on artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin have become part of our guilt-free sugar diet. In fact, we end up consuming enormous quantities of these sweeteners packed into soft drinks, and even toothpaste. But the hidden sweetness comes at the cost of our health. Research has concluded that ingesting artificial sweeteners change the population of intestinal bacteria that perform metabolism. A study by Israeli scientists in 2014 suggests that artificial sweeteners favour the growth of populations of gut bacteria that are more efficient at pulling energy from our food and turning it into fat that then finds its way to our hips, thighs and midriff.

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The Week

Topics : #food | #health

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