Let's talk about: Gut Flora
What is gut flora?
“Instead of the acai bowl, I’ll order the nutrition bowl. It’s got sauerkraut and stuff. That’s healthy, right?”
– my mind during brunch.
It feels like over the last year, new health foods like kombucha and sauerkraut have been showing up everywhere, as sides on brunch dishes and in supermarket fridges. So what’s the big deal? For a while I enjoyed these foods because they seemed to be good for you and tasted unique. But I wanted to learn WHY they’re so good for our bodies. Turns out it has to do with this little thing called: gut flora.
When I hear these two words, I envision a beautiful technicolour garden abundant with flowers of all shapes, colours, and different plant families all situated in, well… my gut. The funny thing is, this image isn’t far off what it actually describes. But first things first:
WHERE IS THE GUT?
The gut, in this context, refers to a portion of your digestive tract, that begins from the end of your stomach and finishes at “the other end”. This is where your small and large intestines are, and is where your gut microbiome lives. Gut flora/gut microbiome/gut health/gut microbiota essentially all refer to the microscopic bacteria living in your gut.
WHAT DOES GUT FLORA DO?
Using my technicolour garden analogy to describe how the gut microbiome works… the flowers all live in symbiosis, which means living together. Just like how an ecosystem maintains a certain balance in organisms to succeed, so must the garden. If the flowers are overpowered by weeds, the garden becomes bungled and looks ugly (we get bad skin, feel grumpy, allergies worsen, a whole other post can go into this!) Likewise, our gut microbiomes also live in symbiosis. We need to balance the good bacteria with the bad in order to be at optimum health.
Our bodies essentially are greenhouses. We are a home for the flowers, just as we are a host for the bacteria. In exchange, the bacteria help us digest food and eliminate waste. Without these microbes, we are vulnerable to many health problems.
Our gut floras:
- Protect the immune system
- Facilitate detoxification
- Provide nutrients (such as vitamin B & potassium)
The bad guys
Antibiotics are a factor which can strip down our gut flora. The thing with antibiotics is that they are not selective, meaning that not only do they kill the bacteria that’s supposedly causing your illness, they also kill off the good bacteria in your gut.
So how does kombucha fit into all of this?
Kombucha and other fermented foods such as kimchi, miso, sauerkraut and kefir contain good bacteria that help us thrive from the inside. Eating these help us get our gut flora into shape by replenishing it with good bugs. We’re then able to strive towards being the best versions of ourselves.
The health of your gut flora is the reason why these foods are so great. It’s why there’s an importance to eat healthily and, where possible, avoid taking stronger and stronger antibiotics like lollies – because if we strip down our beautiful roses, pansies, daffodils and peonies, the weeds will thrive.
So, next time you opt for gut foods, understand that you’re doing good for your gut! If you know someone else who doesn’t know about gut flora, feel free to share this post with them (: In the future, I’ll be blogging about new things I learn about on my ongoing osteo-student journey. If you’re curious to know when I’ll next be posting about gut flora, come join the bo-chic club (button at top right) for weekly updates!
Have the best day, think positive!
Perdigón, G, & Fuller, R 2003, Gut flora, nutrition, immunity, and health, Malden, MA : Blackwell Pub
Schneiderhan, J, Master-Hunter, T, & Locke, A 2016, 'Targeting gut flora to treat and prevent disease', Journal of Family Practice, vol. 65, no. 1, pp. 33-38