· By Cicely Huinink
Balance Your Belly
This is part 2 of Flourish Pancake’s wellness series that will take place all through December & January! Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to stay tuned for more articles, updates, and collabs on wellness and self-care!
Gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, digestive discomfort or fatigue after eating. Can you relate? If you have a digestive disorder, you are a part of the majority in Canada. Two out of three people have digestive issues or a digestive disorder. If you are in this group, you are not a lost cause! Keep reading.
Did you know that 90% of the cells in our body are bacteria cells? Pardon me?
Although they are much smaller than human cells, they are a huge part of our overall well-being and our gut health and we need to take care of them.
Okay, but what does this mean? It’s actually simpler than it sounds. We have a mutually beneficial relationship with bacteria. We need them and they need us.
Our bacteria protect us from harmful pathogens, promote our immune system, help us digest our food and keep us healthy. In return, we feed them and give them a cozy, warm gut-home to live in. Kind of like your own unique bacteria guard dog.
We have bacteria that live all everywhere in our bodies. However, a large percentage of our bacteria live in our gut, a.k.a. our colon. Recent studies have shown that 90% of our serotonin (the happy hormone) receptors are in our gut. This means that our gut health plays a huge role in our mood, memory and learning.
Yea...the saying “you are what you eat” makes a lot more sense now.
Scientists are trying to uncover this connection between our mind and our gut. Over half of patients with an autoimmune disease, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), also suffer from anxiety and/or depression. While most of the research in this area are currently only using mice and rats, there is promising research that improving gut health can positively impact mental health. But, research is still far from finding an answer.
In order to understand exactly what our gut bacteria does, think of our gut bacteria like a forest. A healthy forest has an abundance of trees and diverse species of trees. This type of forest will have more wildlife, healthier soil and less chance of having diseases.
This is the same as our gut. When we have an abundance of bacteria and bacterial species, we are more resistant to diseases, harmful bacteria and our digestive tract is balanced and healthy.
Dysbiosis (big word, but bear with us), which is the imbalance of gut bacteria towards harmful bacteria, occurs when our bodies undergo many rounds of antibiotics or are in constant stress. Dysbiosis can also occur from eating a diet high in processed foods and low in fiber.
Compare dysbiosis to cutting down most of the trees in the forest. There’s more direct sunlight which means more UV radiation, less nutrients in the soil, less diversity of wildlife, and less protection against disease.
Back to humans, this imbalance can trigger general inflammation, increased risk of pathogens and harmful bacteria and higher risk of disease and health disorders.
So what can you increase the beneficial bacteria in your body and keep your gut healthy? Well, every body is so different, but there are scientifically proven ways to increase your beneficial gut bacteria.
Tips on how to improve your gut health:
1. Swap out processed foods for whole foods.
Processed foods often remove the nutrients from foods and replace with preservatives and additives, which can actually feed some harmful bacteria! Whole foods, like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes are packed with micronutrients, fiber and minerals that our gut bacteria (and our bodies) need.
Tip: The more colour on your plate, the better! Colour indicates micronutrients - for example, the orange colour of carrots and squash is from the B-carotene.
2. Fiber is your best friend.
I know when I say fiber, you probably think of your grandpa eating All-Bran for breakfast watching the news. But trust me, it’s pretty cool. Fiber is non-digestible carbohydrates that humans can’t digest. However, some beneficial gut microbes can digest fiber. Feeding the beneficial gut bacteria fiber increases their population, which keeps our gut microbes in a healthy balance.
Most people get less than 10g of fiber per day, when we are supposed to have around 28-35g of fiber per day. Add more fiber to your diet, found naturally in whole grains, fruit, vegetables and legumes, and Flourish pancakes. One serving of our pancakes gives you 7g of fiber (28% of your daily value!), but don’t worry - you could never tell.
3. Prebiotics, all day, everyday.
Similar to fiber, prebiotics are functional, non-digestible carbohydrates. Prebiotics are found naturally in inulin, vegetables, seeds, beans, chickpeas, vegetables and whole grains. Beneficial gut microbes eat prebiotics and produce beneficial compounds, like short chain fatty acids that promote healthy gut function and have a world of benefits.
4. Probiotics & Fermented foods
DW, it’s not the same as mouldy bread. Fermented foods, like sourdough bread, probiotic yogurt, tempeh and kombucha, have live bacteria in them. When we consume these bacteria, they take up residence in our gut for a short time (1-2 days). They help create some of those beneficial compounds and promote the growth of our beneficial gut bacteria. Since our bodies excrete probiotics, it’s important to eat probiotic foods daily.
5. Living a healthy lifestyle.
Getting good quality sleep, daily exercise and monitoring stress can all contribute to the healthy balance of our gut bacteria.
Part of taking care of ourselves is actually taking care of our bacteria, who take care of us. We have to keep them healthy and happy, and in turn, they will keep us happy and healthy.
So eat fiber, get rest and buy the probiotic yogurt. You will thank me later.
Check out Flourish Pancakes website for some delicious tasting fiber :)
Gut Microbiota for Health. (2020, April 22). Retrieved January 13, 2021, from https://www.gutmicrobiotaforhealth.com/
Uma Naidoo, M. (2019, March 27). Gut feelings: How food affects your mood. Retrieved January 13, 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/gut-feelings-how-food-affects-your-mood-2018120715548
Evrensel, A., & Ceylan, M. E. (2015). The gut-brain axis: The missing link in depression. Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience, 13(3), 239–244. https://doi.org/10.9758/cpn.2015.13.3.239
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash