Gut health 101: what is it, and why is everyone talking about it?

Gut health 101: what is it, and why is everyone talking about it?

Everything seems to be all about the gut at the moment - I’ve lost track of how many articles I stumble across which are all about gut health, how to look after the gut microbiome, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria, and how eating (often smelly) fermented foods can help play a part in improving gut health. I am quite certain that even a few years ago we weren’t hearing about the gut (digestive tract) very often at all, and I certainly wouldn't have been able to tell you what kombucha was. So, what is gut health, and why should we care?

According to dietitian Clarice Hebblethwaite, our body is home to 100 trillion bacteria, and the majority of them live in our gut. Some of them are 'bad' and can cause illness and disease but, on the flipside, there is the 'good' type of bacteria (probiotics) which fights illness, helps digest food, strengthens our immune systems and fights the ‘bad’ bacteria. There are also neutral, bystander bacteria - who knew? Anyway, if our microbiome gets out of balance, and the ‘bad’ bacteria overtake the ‘good’, our overall level of wellness will suffer, and we will potentially become very sick. So what causes our microbiome to get out of balance? Lifestyle factors such as eating too much processed food and sugar, stress, alcohol, smoking and pollutants can all affect the good bacteria, and feed the bad. When this happens, the nutrition from our food will not be absorbed properly and will leave us feeling lethargic, compromise the immune system and the collagen levels in our skin and hair will be depleted. It’s not a good time all round.

So what can we do to help our gut and keep our ‘good’ bacteria at the optimum level? We need to eat a diet of mainly wholefoods - avoid the processed, ready-meal options and go for lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, wholegrains and organic meat where possible. Foods that have been lacto-fermented such as sauerkraut, miso and kimchi, and drinks such as kombucha, have been found to contain beneficial bacteria, and these can help reduce inflammation and can repopulate the gut with the good bacteria it needs to function optimally. These foods are not to everyone’s taste, but can be worth persevering with to improve the gut microbiome. Yoghurt containing probiotics is also helpful as long as it is not high in sugar, which can have a negative effect on gut health.

Another reason it is important to look after your gut health is that it is also where we make neurotransmitters, so having a healthy gut will also improve your mood. In fact, one of the first signs that your gut is off-balance is feeling sluggish, tired and negative. To help with this, it’s also important to reduce stress and take some time to relax and switch off from everything that is competing for your time and energy, especially at this busy time of year. 

The Beauty Chef products can also help with supporting your gut, as they all contain bio-fermented prebiotics and probiotics, plus other superfoods. Founder Carla Oates firmly believes that beauty begins in the gut. “It doesn’t sound very glamorous, but beautiful, glowing skin and good health do begin in your gut. So before you think about buying the latest miracle cream or speed-dialling your facialist, why not invest your time and money into improving your digestive health?” You can find out more about The Beauty Chef products here.