Gut Health

Eating fruits and vegetables can boost your gut health

Looking after your gut means looking after the health of the trillions of living microbes in your gut. A diverse gut microbiome has been linked to a lowered risk of many disease like heart disease, diabetes and depression.

Diversity in your diet can lead to a more diverse gut microbiome, which is a sign of good gut health. One way to add diversity into your diet is by eating a variety of plant-based foods. This means that eating more plants, like fruit and vegetables can help strengthen your gut microbiome and improve overall gut health.

This is the key message for National Nutrition week (#NNW2021) – Eat more Vegetables and Fruit every day. Not only are fruits and vegetables great for gut health, they can help against heart disease and help to reduce the risk for obesity, diabetes and certain cancers. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre and dietary bioactive compounds important for good health.

Research has also shown that eating up to 30 or more different plants every week can be beneficial for our gut health. This includes fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, seeds or legumes each day. These foods can increase the beneficial bacteria in our gut like Bifidobacteria or prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. This helps look after the balance and health of our gut microbiome.  

Our South African Food based Dietary guidelines encourages eating plenty of vegetables and fruit every day and this can include 5 vegetables and fruit daily. We should aim for as many different varieties, types and colours to help boost the diversity of our gut microbiome.

Where to start? How much veg and fruit should I be eating?

It’s recommended we eat at least five portions of vegetables and fruit per day. 

1 portion = approximately 1 cup raw or ½ cup cooked, or 80g fresh and 30g dried. Don’t stress if you can’t get to five – every little bit helps!

5 ways to get your 5 a day

Eating more vegetables and fruit can help you manage your weight, help protect against disease and help you live longer! Try this:

  1. Aim for half a plate of vegetables with your main meals
  2. Include fruit at meals or as a snack between meals  
  3. Add cut fruit to cereal or low fat, unsweetened yoghurt
  4. Add chopped up vegetables, such as onions, tomatoes and spinach to eggs or to potatoes. 
  5. Replace starchy foods with vegetables, for example mashed gem squash or cauliflower instead of rice, potatoes and samp. Add cabbage and/or spinach or pumpkin to pap.

Start by making small changes to increase fruit and vegetables in your diet to benefit your gut and overall health.

Share this post and join us in celebrating #NNW2021. Visit www.nutritionweek.co.za to learn more.

#NationalNutritionWeek2021 #Nutrition #HealthyEating  #FruitandVeg #FruitandVegEveryday #NutritionTips #FiveADay

Is there a link between Covid-19 and gut health?

Research in recent years has certainly pointed heavily towards there being a link between immunity and gut health. It follows that a poor gut microbiome may increase susceptibility to a virus attack. Once a virus is resident does the quality of the gut microbiome protect you from the severity of the attack?

Covid -19 has been seen to affect the gastrointestinal tract in the form of diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. Researchers have shown there seems to be a clear connection between altered gut microbiome and severe COVID-19. They have also indicated a dysbiotic gut microbiome composition in patients with Covid -19 persists long after the virus is gone.

Role of gut microbiota in immunity

Studies have suggest that SARS-CoV-2 infected patients first develop a fever, then respiratory symptoms, followed by GI tract symptoms. The virus spike protein interacts with cells in the epithelial lining of the organs especially the lungs, but also the GI tract via a molecular pathway of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE2) leading to a series of chemical reactions resulting in intestinal inflammation. This has been seen in the post mortem pathology of Covid -19 patients.

A growing body of studies have looked at the gut microbiome of the healthy vs the COVID-19 patient. It seems that those with underlying conditions including hypertension, diabetes and obesity as well as the elderly have a microbial dysbiosis and an inflamed gut lining resulting in a disrupted gut barrier integrity. This allows the virus to gain access to the enterocytes leading to the extensive organ damage seen in severe COVID-19.

Conversely a healthy GI tract with a high butyrate content and a subsequent increase in T cells results in the virus being contained in the GI tract and excreted in the faeces.

In a recent study it was shown that this gut dysbiosis extended up to 30 days post Covid and could be a contributor to the pathogenesis of ‘long-Covid’ and its on going health complications.

Which specific gut bacteria are we talking about?

In Covid -19 patients across the research there was a reduction in certain bacteria known to be beneficial. These are the Ruminococcaceae or Lachnospiraceae, a single species F. prausnitzii, and the class Clostridia .These are some of the major butyric acid-producing bacteria in the gut.

Butyric acid is a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA), which, along with propionic and acetic acids, is a fermentation product of the microbe and dietary fibre that plays a pivotal role in gut health. It aims to maintain gut barrier integrity by serving as an important energy source for colonocytes, allowing these cells to activate an anti-inflammatory and anti – allergic  response.

Depletion of certain butyric acid producers in the gut microbiota has been identified in a few chronic diseases, including allergies, inflammatory diseases, colorectal cancer, and Crohn’s disease.

Possible Interventions

Possible interventions to improve gut health and protect the gut in Covid -19 have been considered:

  • Faecal Microbiota transplant – an option that has been suggested for severe COVID -19  but not investigated.
  • Next generation probiotics with a focus on butyrate producers are also considered novel microbial therapeutics and still under scrutiny.
  • Increased dietary fibre intake – the simplest way to improve gut health , fibre being directly utilized by the butyrate producers amongst other beneficial bacteria.

Eating to boost your gut immunity

We know it is possible to increase the diversity of your microbiome by eating lots of plant-based foods.

The Mediterranean diet has been linked to improved gut diversity and reduced inflammation which may indeed protect from pathogens like the Covid-19 virus

The Mediterranean diet contains a diverse mix of fruit and vegetables , wholegrains, legumes, pulses, nuts and seeds. These contribute important vitamins and minerals for supporting immunity but also act as a fuel source for the gut microbiome.

Probiotic rich foods may also support the microbiome like yoghurt, cheeses and fermented foods.

This is just the start

We are starting to understand more about our complex microbiological world. The impact of the status of our gut health goes far beyond the Covid-19 pandemic . In the future we will  continue to deal with an ever increasing incidence of chronic diseases. The links between these and a damaged microbiome are becoming more and more prevalent. It seems that an improved diverse fibre rich diet is going to become more and more important in disease prevention.

Reference link

How our microbes make us who we are

gut health

Gut Health

Interested in your gut health? Did you know that you are made up of more microbial cells than human cells? Scientists also believe your microbes play a central role in your overall health and there is growing evidence to show that diet can determine what your gut ‘microbiome’ or microbial population looks like and how healthy it is. Here is a Ted talk by Robin Knight which we highly recommend if this is an area you want to know more about.

How our microbes make us who we are

Want to learn more about Gut Health and how to eat for health? Take an Eatfit Course.

We have various programmes to suit your needs. Our programmes incorporate behavioral change techniques to help patients make changes easily. Here’s a breakdown of what we offer:

EatFit for IBS
This is a 4 session program. It’s a mix of group sessions and individual consultations to make it cot effective, does not compromise on FODMAP education and provides you with peer support.

We use an approach called “Eating For Intestinal Tolerance” that is based on the low FODMAP diet. This diet has been proven to be effective in reducing irritable bowel symptoms.

The programme explains the diet and offers advice how to exclude FODMAP foods. It also supports patients through the reintroduction stage. It includes meal plans, recipes, dietetic support for 16 weeks and up-to-date research based resources.

EatFit for Digestive Health
This programme is 1 session in a group that provides all the tools needed for a healthier, happier gut with an IBS Diet.

This programme will provide guidance on what to eat but also how to eat better. We will cover various topics, which include balancing your meals, types of fibre, plant power, prebiotics and probiotics.

Research has shown that gastrointestinal health is intricately linked with overall health. This means it is important to nurture your gut microbiome.

 

What Are Probiotics?

What Are Probiotics?

You may have heard the term ‘probiotics’ but most people are unclear of what this word means and why probiotics may be beneficial to your health.

what are probiotics

What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health and gastrointestinal system. Probiotics are often referred to “good”, “helpful” or “friendly” bacteria because they have been linked with various health benefits. There are many types of bacteria and they appear to have different benefits, but two of the most common strains studied and used in commercial probiotics are;

Are probiotics and prebiotics the same thing?
It’s easy to get confused but probiotics are live bacteria and prebiotics are carbohydrates that our live gut bacteria like to feed on such as onions, garlic, and chicory.

probiotics south africa

Are there any health benefits taking probiotics?

Much more research is need in this area but it is thought that taking probiotics may help restore the natural balance of bacteria in your digestive system if it has been disrupted by an illness or treatment such as antibiotics. All of us have ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in our gut and a good balance can help our body function optimally in a number of ways;

    • Keep bad bacteria in check. By eating or drinking more ‘good’ bacteria, they help displace potentially harmful bacteria by competing for space and evicting them from our gut.
    • Improved immunity. oProbiotics are also believed to stimulate our own immune system and may lead to an improvement in immune function. However, more research is needed in this area.

There are some common conditions that probiotics may help treat are:

    • Antibiotic-related diarrhoea. Antibiotics wipe out ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria resulting in diarrhoea. Taking probiotics while taking antibiotics may prevent diarrhoea.
    • Infectious diarrhoea.probiotics may help shorten an episode of diarrhoea related to a stomach bug.
    • Try to count the units of alcohol you are drinking. You will always be surprised and this can help you keep those units down.
    • Irritable bowel syndrome There is some evidence to show that taking probiotics may help with overall IBS symptoms and may reduce abdominal bloating and flatulence.
    • Lactose intolerancelactose intolerance is a common digestive problem where the body is unable to digest lactose (a type of sugar found mainly in milk and dairy products). Some studies have found that certain probiotics, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, may help to reduce the symptoms of lactose intolerance, such as stomach cramps, flatulence and diarrhoea.

There is insufficient evidence to support health claims that taking probiotics will help boost the immune system, eczema, colic, inflammatory bowel disease or vaginal conditions.

prebiotics

Safety and other concerns
It does seem that for most people probiotics appear to be safe. If you wish to try them – assuming you have a healthy immune system – they shouldn’t cause any unpleasant side effects. However if you are acutely ill or have a compromised immune system you should be cautious about taking probiotics as more research is needed to guide us when probiotics should be avoided in relation to serious health conditions.

It’s also important to note that probiotics are not classed as medicines but rather as supplements. As such claims that they can cure, treat, or prevent disease are not allowed. In addition there is no regulation of the types of microbial strains used or even the amounts. Do your homework as only specific strains, in certain quantities, may help some conditions. Some manufacturers may not include the correct quantity of probiotics, which are measured in colony-forming units (CFUs), so the probiotic may not be as effective as the research indicated. Probiotics are also expensive so it is important to check that you are getting the correct product.

Which probiotics should you take?
Not all probiotics are created equal and different strains have been shown to have different functions. Different strains of the same species can vary and may not produce the same effects. A probiotic is defined by its genus (e.g. Lactobacillus), species (e.g. rhamnosus), and strain designation (often a combination of letters or numbers). In addition everyone has a different composition of bacteria in their gastrointestinal tract so it’s hard to make firm recommendations.

There are many commercial probiotics available and they may consist of a single type of bacteria, or a mixture. They are available in capsules, powders, yoghurts and fermented milks. Try to choose products that contain the same microbial strains and quantities as documented in the research and are in line with your health goals. A probiotic that helps against antibiotic associated diarrhoea may not help someone with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Please speak to your doctor or dietitian if you would like some more guidance.

probiotics

How should you take probiotics?
Please read the manufacturer’s instructions for dose and timing as this does vary between probiotic brands. It is also recommended to not take your probiotic with a hot drink as this may kill the friendly bacteria. If you are on antibiotics, please take the probiotic 3 hours after the antibiotic.

How to boost your microbiota the natural way

    • Eat 30g cheese a day, a portion of unprocessed artisanal cheese the size of a matchbox contains a broad spectrum of microbiota.
    • Feed your bugs with natural fibre contained in fruit, vegetables, beans and pulses.
    • Polyphenols are chemicals found in tea, coffee, red wine citrus, garlic, onion and dark chocolate, which promote the growth of healthy bacteria.
    • Fermented food and drinks like yoghurt and kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut all contain healthy bacteria.
    • Avoid antibiotics unless necessary or advised by your doctor.

probiotic foods

Conclusion
The future around the use of probiotics in the management of health and illness is exciting and promising but the research still has a long way to go. It’s not an exact science as there are many microbial strains and their role may vary in relation to certain diseases. In addition, we all have different microbial fingerprints so there is no one solution that fits all

What Are Probiotics? Want to know more about improving your health? Get in touch with us.