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How to feed your gut microbes – Prebiotics

There is emerging research showing that prebiotics can support a healthy gut and digestion. Prebiotics are fibres that aren't digested by our bodies, but feed the microbes in our gut.

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We know there is a huge connection between our gut health and immunity, as well as mental health. We can influence our gut health through simple changes to lifestyle and diet, to maximise our overall health.

Living in our digestive system are trillions of microbes. These bacteria interact with our immune system, help us make hormones such as serotonin, and manufacture vitamins like Vitamin K and B Vitamins.

They are incredibly important, so we need to look after them.

Feeding your gut microbes

The microbes in our gut enjoy eating fibre. When we care for them like a little pet, and feed them up, they create important compounds for us.

Short Chain Fatty Acids are made by gut bacteria which help reduce inflammation and protect the lining of the gut.

Regularly eating foods rich in fibre will help to grow the colonies of bugs we want to encourage.

As well as helping us stay fuller for longer fibre can support good gut health. Fill up on

  • Vegetables (aim for 3 a day as a minimum)
  • Fruits (aim for 2 a day as a minimum)
  • Pulses (lentils, beans, chickpeas etc)
  • Whole grains (opt for brown rich, brown bread / pasta)

What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are a type of dietary fibre that humans cannot digest but are eaten by our gut microbes. Foods like leeks, artichokes, onions and certain whole grains are good sources of this type of fibre.

To help feed your gut bacteria eat more:

  • Artichokes ( Jerusalem and globe)
  • Bananas (especially green ones)
  • Asparagus,
  • Garlic & onions,
  • Barley
  • Wheat
  • Oats
  • Apples & pears
  • Beans (e.g. chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans)

Could prebiotics help us sleep better?

New research has shown that when mice were given a diet high in prebiotics they were more resilient to stress induced interruptions to sleep. These mice spent more time in restorative phases of sleep (called non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep).

The mice were put under stress during the day (poor mice), and the ones with a higher prebiotic diet recovered better during the night.

Whilst this research was in mice and not humans, it alludes to the link between the food we eat, our gut bacteria and our mental health. Sleep is such an important part of our health, we need to protect those 8 hours.

We can’t prescribe prebiotics as a stress reliever or a sleeping pill, but we do know that increasing your dietary fibre to around 25-30g each day is associated with good health.

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