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We know that good health starts in the gut. In fact, 40 trillion good bacteria are working all the time to keep you well! But how healthy is your gut? Read on to get started on your journey to good gut health: learn more about the signs of an unhealthy gut, find out what your gut needs to stay healthy, and why an unhealthy gut can affect not only your digestion but also your skin, immune health and, even your mood!
If you're short on time, I've put together a quick reference checklist below, which gives you ten easy tips to help keep your gut in great shape.
Ideally though, if you want to fully support your gut, you need to know a little more about how it works, why it's important, and what can upset its natural balance. Read on to find out all you need to know about gut health.
The gut microbiome is the collective ecosystem of microbes that lives in our gut. Find out more about the microbiome in our article: All about the Microbiome
Gut health, good bacteria and the microbiome have become more and more important in the world of wellness for a few years. We are currently seeing the gut microbiome turn into a cultural movement!
But why all the fuss now?
Put simply, the microbiome today faces many different challenges than it would have faced just 50 years ago.
Factors in modern day living such as stress, travel and western diets are the biggest threats to the human microbiome, resulting in common conditions including:
This means it’s more important than ever to understand the role of your gut in maintaining your overall health.
Every organ within the gut, from the stomach to the anus, has a unique function that helps to keep your gut (and you) going regularly.
The key functions of your gut are:
Good digestion has a profound effect on your overall health, and the gut microbiome plays a key role in this. A healthy microbiome contains lots of good bacteria, also known as probiotics, which confer different health benefits.
Find out more about probiotics in our article: What are probiotics?
Our microbiome does a lot for us and good gut bacteria are fundamental to our health. They help to break down and digest food, support the absorption of nutrients and discourage 'bad’ bacteria, yeasts, and other nasties known as pathogens, that can take over and stop the gut from functioning correctly.
We should point out that everybody has some bad bacteria in their guts and this is normal. However, an imbalance of good and bad bacteria could result in an unhealthy gut microbiome, known as dysbiosis. Be warned: some of these symptoms could surprise you! Dysbiosis symptoms include:
So, if you suffer from one or more of the above symptoms, it’s probably time to join the millions of people prioritising a happy gut full of good bacteria.
Don’t forget that over 70%6 of your immune system resides in the gut, so it’s worth supporting your gut in small, easy ways to keep you and yours well on an ongoing basis.
There are hundreds of different types of bacteria living in the gut, not to mention other microbes like viruses and yeasts. Some of these are beneficial, some at high levels can be harmful and others are commensal with no negative or positive influence. A few types of beneficial bacterial species we could expect to see in a healthy gut include:
Although, there are many more different types of ‘good’ bacterial species. Generally, the Bifidobacterium genera reside mostly in the lower intestine whereas the Lactobacillus genera live predominantly in the small intestines.
Most people think of yogurt drinks for getting a friendly bacteria boost. However, there are many ways to get your daily dose of good bacteria.
Fermented foods such as kombucha and sauerkraut are high in probiotics.
Kitchen staples such as onions, bananas, blueberries, beans, and lots of greens (think broccoli, kale and cabbage) also contain prebiotics, a type of fibre that feeds your good gut bacteria populations.
These are all great for our gut health, however, when you’ve got busy schedules to manage, it can be difficult to make such a varied, colourful diet a daily habit. This is where probiotic supplements can make life much easier…
Unlike foods rich in probiotics, with probiotic supplements, you know exactly how many probiotics you’re taking, and what type of strains are present. They’re also super-easy to take, available as capsules, gummies or in a sachet you can mix into drinks.
It’s important to select supplements with the right strains for you, as research shows different strains do different things. For example, Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM® has been shown to help support bloating symptoms7, whereas Lactobacillus rhamnosus Rosell 11 has been researched to support the gut during antibiotics8. Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM® can be found in Optibac Probiotics Every Day EXTRA.
It’s still a great idea to include fermented foods in your diet, but a supplement delivers all the good bacteria you need in one go.
If you enjoyed this article you might like to read some other related pages:
Healthcare professionals can read: Do women’s probiotics work in the gut?