As I’m sure you know by now, gut health is your secret weapon when it comes to maintaining good overall health, a happy mind, steady weight and an all-cylinders-firing immune system. It’s been the focus of much media and blog attention recently too, as the outbreak of Covid-19 has reinforced the importance of maintaining a healthy microbiome for its virus-busting abilities! Let’s take a look at what ‘gut health’ actually means…
What is Gut Health?
The name itself is pretty self explanatory, but when we delve deeper into the science and research behind what it means to have a healthy gut, it all comes down to actually how diverse your microbiome (the collection of bacteria, yeast and protozoa that live in your gut) is, i.e. how many different types of beneficial bacteria are colonising your gut.
Why is it important to have a diverse microbiome?
A huge proportion (over 70-80%) of your immune system resides in your gut, and in order to function properly it needs constant communication with your microbiome to sample and mount responses against invading pathogens, or (as is most common) to do nothing when the threat is low. A healthy, resilient gut microbiome relies on richness and diversity (strength in numbers!), and when there exists this richness and diversity of microbes your immune system is stronger and more effective too.
Decreased diversity is associated with disease, here’s why: If you imagine that diversity equals lots of different skill sets (doctors, firefighters, plumbers etc) then you can start to understand that if there’s a problem (a fire, perhaps), then having a diverse microbiome means that you’re always going to have the correct person to come to the rescue. The richness of the microbiome comes into play regarding how many of said people there are: e.g. not just one firefighter, but many.
Having low gut microbiome diversity is associated with a number of chronic illnesses including:
- Insulin resistance2
- High cholesterol3
- Type 1 diabetes5
- Type 2 diabetes6
- Colorectal cancer7
- Crohn’s disease8
- Ulcerative colitis9
- Coeliac disease10
- Chronic fatigue syndrome12
- Polycystic ovary syndrome13 (PCOS)
To increase the diversity of your microbiome, feed it a diverse range of foods. And this is where fibre comes in!
Why is fibre good for gut health?
Fibre is the substrate that our gut bacteria ferment in order to yield highly beneficial molecules called Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs for short). It’s these SCFAs that have been studied so extensively as having disease preventative properties (namely the diseases/illnesses listed above).
Our ancestors had far more diverse gut microbiomes than us, as our gut diversity has decreased over the years due to decreased variety of foods being found on the supermarket shelves. We’ve gone from having multiple different varieties of lettuce, potatoes, radishes, greens etc to just a few that are the most popular and therefore the most lucrative for the big supermarkets to stock, and it’s having detrimental effects on our health and disease prevention. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that our food diversity on a global scale has dropped 75% in the last 100 years.
Different plant foods contain different types of fibre, which is why you may have heard the ‘30 plant foods per week’ recommendation. Personally, I prefer this to be higher than 30, but it’s a great place to start if you’re looking at building a diverse microbiome. The really excellent news is that it can take as little as a week to make a really noticeable impact on the diversity of your microbes, just by changing your diet alone.
What type of fibre is most beneficial for gut health?
Now here’s the important point: For so many of us ‘fibre’ signifies grain-based products like Ryvita and Weetabix, but that’s not the type of fibre that’s most beneficial to your microbiome. Actually, what our microbes need most of to ferment and create SCFAs are vegetables and fruit. Apples, for example, break down to yield butyrate (the most heavily studied beneficial SCFA). Asparagus, onions, garlic, fibrous greens, the bitter pith on oranges and grapefruit, pomegranate seeds, herbs and spices...there really is so much to choose from when you start to think about it. So next time you are considering upping your fibre intake, don't opt for a nutritionally poor snack product marketed as ‘high fibre,’ have some raw veggies and some fruit instead. A nice idea is to keep a tally of how many different plant foods you manage per week, then try and increase it!
How are we helping you hit your fibre goals at Cru8?
I founded Cru8 based on the premise that food heals. I healed myself of pre-diabetes, depression and a whole host of symptoms with a change in diet, and subsequently lifestyle and in developing products for Cru8 I’ve been conscious to exclude pro-inflammatory grains in favour of nutrient-dense, high fibre plant foods such as chicory root, ground almonds, flax seeds and many more.
Rest assured, when you choose Cru8 you’re also choosing to put your health first without compromising on taste or quality.