Gut means stomach specifically meaning intestines and flora is the complex group of live microorganisms that recite in your gut. Combined together Gut flora is the group of good live microorganisms that stay in your intestines forever and help to protect body by enhancing health of intestine.
There are 300 to 500 different kinds of bacteria containing nearly 2 million genes in your gut. Each individual has its own unique gut flora loaded with millions of microorganisms along with some beneficial parasites and fungi also.
Micro flora cannot sustain in stomach due to its acidic atmosphere. The main bacteria of the stomach include: Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Lactobacillus, Peptostreptococcus, and types of yeast. Helicobacter pylori are a gram-negative spiral bacterium that establishes on gastric mucosa causing chronic gastritis and peptic ulcer disease and is a carcinogen for gastric cancer.
Intestines are the best place for microorganisms to stay and multiply regularly and this enhances the overall gut health. Major role played by gut flora is that in digestion and formation of stools.
Bacteria make up most of the flora in the colon and 60% of the dry mass of faeces/stools. Gram-positive cocci and rod-shaped bacteria like Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, Bacteroides, Clostridium, Escherichia, Streptococcus and Ruminococcus are the predominant microorganisms found in the small intestine. However over production of these organisms can result into intestinal failure.
Health benefits of gut flora
Gut flora like lactobacillus has many health benefits. Let’s look at some of them:
1. Help in digestion of foods like dietary fibre by fermentation and thus formation of stools.
2. Synthesis of vitamins like biotin, B12, Folate and also those of B group.
3. Improves and strengthens the immune system.
4. Help in the production of short chain fatty acids and acetate that multiplies the gut flora.
5. Acetate generated helps to regulate the cholesterol and maintains lipid profile.
6. Gut flora helps in energy metabolism.
What we eat influences the production of these microbes in gut and therefore certain foods classified as PREBIOTICS play very important role in enhancing the gut micro flora.
Prebiotics and Probiotics: Gut well wisher!
Prebiotics are the non-digestible foods that increase the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Whereas, probiotics are the beneficial or good live microbes that are present in gut. Many types of bacteria are classified as probiotics. They all have different benefits, but most come from two groups – Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Prebiotics are the foods basically for the gut micro flora so that they can survive. Here is the list of best prebiotics foods and how do they work:
- Curd: Curd has a huge quantity of lactobacillus which is excellent for digestion. It also maintains the proportion of good bacteria hence curd is considered excellent when person has upset stomach or indigestion.
- Green banana/ yellow banana: Green banana has resistant starch which acts as a probiotic by maintained gut flora. Also yellow banana has fibre which acts as a probiotic.
- Raw onions: Raw onions have chromium which increases the micro flora content of the gut.
- Buttermilk: Curd diluted with water to make buttermilk is also rich in same strain of lactobacillus and thus great for upset stomach and a prebiotic.
- Fibre rich foods like: Raw salads: Dietary fibre after digestion remains in intestine wherein they get fermented and increase the quantity and quality of gut flora.
- Yoghurt: Yoghurt has added lactobacillus strain which makes it excellent probiotic.
- Soybean: Soy bean fibre when treated with enzyme becomes 58 per cent soluble and a probiotic. Therefore soy bean products like soy milk, tofu and okara are excellent sources of probiotic.
- Garlic: Garlic helps to increase the quantity of gut bacteria due to its prebiotic properties.
- Onions: Similar to that of Ginger family onions also increase the bacteria of gut.
- Water: Always keep body hydrated. Drinking lot of water can help to flush out bad bacteria and also acts as a medium for the growth of good microorganisms.
Leaky Gut Syndrome
It is a digestive condition in which bacteria and toxins are able to “leak” through the intestinal wall causing frequent diarrhoea, bloating, gas, upset stomach, nutritional deficiencies, headaches and, constant fatigue. It is caused due to increased permeability of the intestinal track due to which gaps between the intestinal wall loosens leading to entry of bacteria, water and undigested particles to enter into the blood stream.
As per evidence increased Zonulin protein causes increase in intestinal permeability and this increase in protein is caused due to bacteria or celiac disease.
What to avoid:
In order to avoid this condition certain foods need to be restricted specially foods rich in gluten.
· Wheat-based products: Bread, pasta, cereals, wheat flour.
· Gluten-containing grains: Barley, rye, bulgur wheat and oats.
· Processed non veg: Cold cuts, bacon, hot dogs, etc.
· Baked goods: Cakes, muffins, cookies, pies, pastries and pizza.
· Snack foods: Crackers, muesli bars, popcorn, etc.
· Junk food: Fast foods like potato chips, sugary cereals, candy bars, etc.
· Dairy products: Milk, cheeses and ice cream.
· Refined oils: Canola oil, sunflower oil, soybean and safflower oils.
· Artificial sweeteners: Aspartame, sucralose and saccharin.
· Sauces: Salad dressings, soy sauce.
· Beverages: Alcohol, carbonated beverages and other sugary cold drinks.
To be included more:
· Vegetables: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, kale, beetroot, spinach, ginger, mushrooms.
· Roots and tubers like: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, squash and turnips.
· Fruit: Coconut, grapes, bananas, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, kiwi, pineapple, oranges, mandarin, lemon, limes, passion fruit and papaya.
· Seeds: Chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds.
· Gluten-free grains: Amaranth, rice (brown and white), sorghum, gluten-free oats.
· Healthy fats: Avocado oil, coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil.
· Fish like Salmon, tuna, herring and other omega-3-rich fish.
· Meats: Lean cuts of chicken, beef, lamb, turkey and eggs.
· Herbs and spices: All herbs and spices.
· Cultured dairy products: Yogurt, Greek yogurt and traditional buttermilk.
· Beverages like Bone broth, teas, coconut milk, nut milk, water.
· Nuts: Raw nuts including peanuts, almonds and nut-based products, such as nut milks and butters.
These foods act as best medium to promote the good bacteria in gut and maintain the balance between bad ones also.