“The health of our gut is linked to just about every system in our body, from our brain and mental health to our skin and heart, it also makes up a large part of our immune system,” says clinical dietitian, nutritionist and co-author of The Mystery Gut, Jaime Rose Chambers.
Given that an estimated 70% of your immune system resides in your digestive tract, cultivating a healthy gut is not only essential for smooth digestion, glowing skin and happy hormones, but also robust immunity.
Below, Jaime explains why—plus, three simple rituals to support your gut for optimum wellbeing.
Why is gut health crucial to our health in general?
“The reason the gut is important to our overall health is because our gut microbiota—the bacteria and other bugs that populate our gut—create a barrier for unwanted pathogens to enter our body, they help to break down our food to access nutrients and they create anti-inflammatory components called short-chain fatty acids.
When our gut is not functioning well, it can impact those processes and also cause gaps to form between the cells in the intestines, allowing food particles and unwanted bugs to enter the bloodstream, causing a range of health problems.”
What are three things everyone can do to support their gut health?
“We can all make sure we are eating a diet high in plant foods. The latest research suggests eating 30 different types of plant foods per week—that includes fruit and vegetables but also wholegrains, legumes, lentils, nuts and seeds. This is because plant foods contain fibre and prebiotics which feed the microbiota or the healthy bugs in our gut. A healthy functioning gut can, in turn, impact the health of almost every system in our body including our brain and mood, our skin, heart, and possibly even our weight.
The second thing we can do is to eat more fermented foods such as yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha and tempeh, as they contain some of the healthy bugs we find in our gut. By eating the fermented foods, we may introduce new strains of bacteria or increase the numbers of a certain type of bacteria in the gut.
Lastly, we can help preserve our existing gut bacteria by minimising processed foods, alcohol and antibiotic use (unless completely necessary) and managing stress levels. These foods may reduce the numbers and types of healthy bacteria in the gut and cause dysbiosis—an imbalance of bacteria in the gut. This can increase permeability in the lining of the gut, making it more susceptible to unwanted invaders entering the body and making us sick.”