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ASK AN EXPERT: WHAT FOODS ARE GOOD FOR GUT HEALTH AND IMMUNITY

by Dara Winters on November 06, 2020
"All disease starts in the gut" - Hippocrates

We have 100 trillion bacteria in our body, so collectively these contain more bacteria genes than we do! The gut is the biggest barrier to the outside world and contains a whopping two thirds of our immune system, so it's pretty important! It helps to protect allergens from getting in through the gut wall (the outside) into the blood stream (the inside world). Our gut is also regarded as our second brain because it’s home to the most neurons (brain cells) outside of the central nervous system. It’s also hugely important for the body’s deep-seated sense of happiness and contentment. This is because the body makes most of its serotonin, the ‘happiness’ neurotransmitter, here.

So we need to feed these good bacteria in our gut for all aspects of our physical and mental wellbeing. If they don’t get fed with gentle plant-based fibre, they can’t do their jobs as effectively. Currently most Brits don’t get enough fibre in their diet. I don’t mean fibre from All Bran or Weetabix (have you noticed how if you drop a bit on the table, it sticks to it like glue? Well this is what it’s doing to our gut wall…). These highly glutinous cereals can often cause bloating in the gut which is a sign that our immune response has been triggered. So opt for these more gentle foods which will help feed our microflora, or our bacteria garden, which should help bolster our immunity and happiness as we head into winter:

Foods to eat in abundance:

  • Lactobacillus bacteria convert sugars into lactic acid, inhibiting the growth of putrifactive bacteria: yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, miso, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha
  • Increase gentle plant-based fibre (avoid too many gluten fibre sources), garlic, onions, ground linseed, psyllium husk, pectin from apples and fermented foods – sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, kimchi (although not if you have IBS or IBS like symptoms or are on the FODMAP diet)
  • Natural live yoghurt - source of probiotic bacteria. Buy organic.
  • Jerusalem artichokes, chicory, asparagus, leeks - source of prebiotics to support healthy bacterial balance
  • Hemp, linseed, pumpkin, walnut oil and seeds, oily fish – all anti-inflammatory for the gut
  • Berries and cherries - sources of bioflavenoids which are great for the immune system and can help to repair the gut lining
  • Beetroot, carrots, watercress, squash, pumpkin, sweet potato - sources of betacarotene which is used from growth and repair of gut lining cells and immune defence
  • Apples - contain pectin which helps keep bowel regular and promotes growth of healthy gut bacteria
  • Cabbage juice - contains cabbagin (or vitamin U) which helps repair the gut and promote growth of healthy gut bacteria
  • Always soak your pulses to reduce lectins which can cause flatulence. Lectins are proteins mostly found in grains and legumes

Foods to limit:

  • Avoid refined sugar which feeds yeasts which can affect gut permeability
  • Go gluten free, or avoid as much as possible
  • Give yourself a break from alcohol which can also adversely affect our gut 

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