Updated: Jan 5
I’m not suggesting that your belly is the size of a ridiculously expensive NCP multi-storey following the Christmas festivities.
I’m talking about the billions of bacteria that live in your large intestine. Imagine each one of those bacteria is a car. They each take up their own space. We want all of the spaces in our car park to be filled with shiny, efficient cars. We don’t want any emission-spurting, old, tired and smelly cars to take up our spaces.
Why do we want all of our spaces taken up with friendly bacteria? And in particular, why is it really important to get a diverse mixture of bacteria in our car park?
There are too many reasons to list all of them here, but I’ll start with a few….(note the car park is now your ‘microbiome’…)
(1) They keep your gut healthy
Each particular group of bacteria have their own unique function to play in your gut. They also have their own favourite foods to digest via fermentation. If there isn’t enough of their favourite food coming in, they will sadly die.
You will then miss out on the brilliant functions they have, such as strengthening your gut lining and helping regulate your bowel health and function.
(2) They can affect your weight
When we eat fibre it ends up in our large intestine. Friendly bacteria break this fibre down by fermenting it. In doing so they produce something called short-chain fatty acids, or SCFA’s for short. SCFA’s are involved in the appropriate metabolism of carbohydrates and fat in our food.
An increased number of SCFA’s has been shown to have a positive effect on the way our body keeps our blood sugar at a balanced level, helping to prevent the peaks and troughs that can make us feel lethargic and moody. In turn, our body is more able to use energy effectively and is less likely to store it as fat.
(3) They strengthen your immune system
A healthy and diverse microbiome plays an important role in keeping your immune system working well. Our gut lining has a layer of mucous which acts as a barrier to bacteria and pathogens entering our bloodstream. Numerous friendly bacteria interact to strengthen this lining.
An unbalanced microbiome also creates inflammation – often at a low level that doesn’t present itself obviously on a daily basis but is working in the background to dull your immune strength.
And back to that car park… if all of your spaces are filled with lovely shiny clean cars there isn’t any room for old bangers, such as bacteria and pathogens, to take hold!
So what can you do to make sure you have a healthy car park?
It sounds so simple, but eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, beans, wholegrains really is the best way to feed a diverse range of friendly bacteria in your gut.
Taking probiotics can be of use in certain situations, but unfortunately the impacts may only be temporary if the food they need to survive is not forthcoming.
The role of the gut is so crucial to our everyday well-being that it is often implicated in health challenges you would not naturally connect it with. For instance, low mood and anxiety, long covid and hormone imbalances are hugely impacted by the health of our gut function.
The amazing role of our gut health will be the topic of many blog posts from me as I’ve experienced first-hand how improving my gut health revolutionised my well-being.
Until then… next time you pull into a car park, ask yourself how many different fruits and vegetables you’ve eaten in the last week…..