Your gut is home to one of the most complex ecosystems on Earth, the gut microbiome – that is, the trillions of microbes within your gut!
They number so great that they out weigh your own human cells ten to one, they have a collective weight of around 2kg and, they even make up around 60% of the dry mass of poo! While there are core microbial species that we all share, a large part is unique to you, just like your fingerprint.
Over millions of years of evolution our immune system has gotten to know our friendly residents and together we work as an impressive team. Gut microbes help protect against invading microbes, they jump in the give us a helping hand to digest dietary fibre, are capable of extracting energy from food, create vitamin K and some B vitamins and protect against colon cancer. If this isn’t amazing enough, science is now even linking more and more diseases (such as obesity and autoimmune disease) with disturbances in our gut microbiome.
Now, while you may think you have your food all to yourself, you're actually sharing it with your 100 trillion friends! Different bacteria thrive on different nutrients, so what we choose to eat can greatly influence the types of bacteria that grow within our microbial garden. Research shows, that these changes can happen in as little as 24 hours.
So when it comes to what to feed your hungry tenants – think fibre, think plant foods and perhaps more importantly think VARIETY!
Fibre is so much more than ‘roughage’, as certain types of fibre acts a premium source of fuel for your microbes. Supercharge your diet with the usual high fibre suspects of vegetables, fruits and wholegrains, but also give thought to incorporating more legumes into your diet. These nutritional powerhouses offer an abundance of nutrients and contain resistant starch, which gut microbes love to feed on. Sprinkle chickpeas over salads, add a dollop of hummus to wraps or toss a can of 4 bean mix through casseroles or pasta sauces for a gut friendly fibre boost.
Science has only scraped the surface in understanding how important our gut microbiome is and we have much to learn, so remember to feed them well and they’ll look after you for life!
To wrap up, I’ll leave you to ponder the words of Jeroen Raes, an expert in the field of the gut microbiome - “You are not human, you are a walking bacterial colony”.
Image from www.healthcarecurated.com