So, there's obviously something not right going on. Even with so many 'diets' and 'diet pills' out there, people are still getting bigger, and fat mass is increasing in our bodies. So, scientists are doing more and more research to find what the secret is to the obesity epidemic - why are obesity rates continoulsy increasing?
So I decided to read about the influence of 'good' bacteria on our health, and the evidence is definitely in favour of this bacteria so far. We have always thought of bacteria as our enemy, but there's more evidence telling us that some bacteria are actually our friends - especially our gut bacteria.
Our gut bacteria (or microbes) are tiny little creatures that live in our bowel - and there's 100 trillion of them! We simply cannot live without them, but unfortunately, we have always treated them as the 'enemy' and have tried to completely wipe them out. But now, research is telling us that the more gut bacteria we have, the better our health will actually be.
So how do we get these bacteria back to where they once belonged? Well, we can start by increasing our probiotic and prebiotic intake.
What are probiotics?
They are live microorganisms found in bacteria, yeast or fungi. I like to think of them as "good" or "helpful" bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy. We can find them in food such as yoghurt, kefir, soft cheeses (especially smelly ones!), sourdough bread and most recently given limelight: kombucha tea.
What are prebiotics?
To allow this good bacteria to survive in our gut, we need to feed them ‘prebiotic’ foods. These are non-digestible fibres that help the good bacteria to stick in our gut and grow. Prebiotics are most abundantly found in asparagus, artichokes, honey, legumes and red wine.
So why is this so important? Well, apart from the fact that these gut bacteria help us stay healthy and keep our immune system working at it's best, research in mice has showed that gut bacteria actually influence obesity! It was shown that obese mice had less numbers of gut bacteria and also had less variety of them, whereas lean mice had a whole army of bacteria in so many different shapes and sizes. Although more research is still needed in this particular area, I think we have enough information to know that we need to keep our gut bacteria growing in size and variety.
So for now, all we can do is make sure we are:
1) eating lots of vegetables,
2) having sources of probiotics
3) having sources of prebiotics
4) and steering clear of deep-fried/takeaway type of food.
I can assure you that doing these 4 simple things will no doubt help kick-start your journey to ultimate health.
Joyce Haddad, Director of A Dietitian's Mission, is an Adelaide based Dietitian/Nutritionist and Master Personal Trainer with a passion for health and wellbeing. ADM aims to help the public make informed and realistic nutritional choices and ensure everyone has a healthy relationship with their body and with food.