Having a healthier gut can help you to get thinner, be happier and live longer. Read our top tips to improving and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome.
Your gut microbiome is a vast community of trillions of bacteria and fungi that inhabit every nook and cranny of your gastrointestinal tract, and have a major influence on your metabolism, body weight, propensity to illness, immune system, appetite and mood. These microbes mostly live in your lower intestine (the colon) and outnumber all the other cells in your body put together. According to research, the richer and more diverse the community of gut microbes are, the lower your risk of disease and allergies. Follow the tips below to a healthier gut. Eat as many types of fruit and veg as possible, and try to eat seasonally The variety may be as important as the quantities, as the chemicals and types of fibre will vary, and each support different microbial species. Pick high-fibre vegetables Good examples are artichokes, leeks, onions and garlic, which all contain high levels of inulin (a prebiotic fibre). Some vegetables like lettuce have little fibre or nutrient value. Aim for more than 40g of fibre per day, which is about double the current averages. Fibre intake has been shown to reduce heart disease and some cancers, as well as reduce weight gain. Choose food and drinks with high levels of polyphenols Polyphenols are antioxidants that act as fuel for microbes. Examples are nuts, seeds, berries, olive oil, brassicas, coffee and tea – especially green tea. Try time restricted eating Increase intervals between meals to give your microbes a rest. Occasionally skip meals or have an extended fast. Eat plenty of fermented foods containing live microbes Good choices are unsweetened yoghurt; kefir, which is a sour milk drink with five times as many microbes as yoghurt; raw milk cheeses; sauerkraut; kimchi, a Korean dish made from garlic, cabbage and chilli; and soybean-based products such as soy sauce, tempeh and natto. Steer clear of artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose and saccharine These disrupt the metabolism of microbes and reduce gut diversity – in animal studies this has led to obesity and diabetes. Ditch the processed foods too, as these also upset microbes’ metabolism. Avoid antibiotics and non-essential medicines Antibiotics destroy good and bad microbes, and it can take weeks to recover, so don’t take them unless you need them. Their use is also associated with obesity and allergies in animals. Even common medications like paracetamol and antacids can interfere with microbes.