Why is healthy nutrition important for digestive wellbeing and what foods are good?
Our health is significantly influenced by the way we live. A health-conscious lifestyle, physical activity and a healthy diet have a positive effect on our health and help to prevent illness. A balanced diet is your starting point to regular digestion. For example, if our food is low in fibre, it can cause constipation. We usually notice the importance of good digestion only when the intestine starts complaining.
What constitutes a healthy gut diet?
The bacteria in our intestines are important for our health. There are foods which can promote the intestinal flora and foods which do not or might even be harmful.
The following nutrients might support your intestinal flora:
Dietary fibre is divided into water-soluble and insoluble forms. The soluble form of dietary fibre is found primarily in legumes such as beans, peas or soya, in fruit such as apricots, blackberries and prunes, vegetables, oat bran and barley. The insoluble form of dietary fibre is found primarily in wholemeal products, vegetables such as carrots and tomatoes, fruits like apples and bananas, nuts and seeds. A healthy mixture of both is recommended, as they serve as "food” to the intestinal bacteria and thus support them.
Prebiotics are a type of fibre - non-digestible, carbohydrate food components. They also serve the intestinal bacteria as food and thus help to maintain healthy intestinal flora. Good prebiotic food sources are for example raw chicory, artichoke, bananas and fibre-rich foods such as rye.
In contrast to prebiotics, probiotics are living microorganisms. They help process the food through your gut. Researchers are still trying to figure out which ones are best for certain health issues, but there have been positive results for GI symptoms.
Foods you should be careful with
On the other hand, there are foods that do not necessarily harm the intestinal flora but do not support it either. In general, you should limit the intake of convenience and processed foods as they often contain fats, sugars and additives that can put a strain on the intestine and immune system.
Foods low in dietary fibre such as in our favourite desserts like cakes and sweet should also be eaten in moderation.
FODMAPs are short-chain sugars that are poorly absorbed within the small intestine but can be rapidly fermented by the intestinal microbiome. Since these carbs pull more water into the bowel, some people may experience gas, bloating and diarrhoea after consuming them. Low FODMAP diets are another way to positively influence your diet however it is a good idea to check with your health professional first.