Microbiota - what it is and why you need to look after it

The human microbiota is the collection of microorganisms we are home to. The largest collection is found in the gut, where it is also referred to as ‘gut flora’, but these microorganisms also live on our skin and in our respiratory tract, to name a few other places.

Our microbiota is with us from birth and changes as we grow and become exposed to different environmental factors, alter our diet, experience diseases and take medication.

Microbiota plays an essential role in our wellbeing. It supports the immune system and our metabolic health, synthesises some vitamins and amino acids, including the B vitamins and vitamin K, and helps break down complex carbohydrates like starches and fibres. Without it we would lack key nutrients, amino acids and essential short chain fatty acids. The microbiota of a healthy person also provides protection from harmful organisms for example from drinking or eating contaminated water or food.

Research over the last decade has driven a greater understanding just how important our microbiota is for our health, and that’s not just the health of the digestive tract, but also our immunity, brain functioning and even behaviour.

Because microbiota are vital to our health, trouble can start when this community of gut flora, is put out of balance. This can happen through poor diet - over indulgence in sugars, salts, alcohol and processed foods; gastrointestinal infection; antibiotics and even stress.

So what can we do to help keep our gut flora healthy?

Avoid processed foods and cut back on salt and sugar

Ready meals are generally highly processed and contain high levels of sugar and salt.

Eat prebiotics

Prebiotics act as food for our gut flora. There are many delicious, healthy foods that naturally contain prebiotics. Try to eat a mix colourful fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds each week. Plus whole grains like wheat, oats, and barley. Many probiotics are high fibre foods and most of us eat less than half the recommended daily intake of 30g of fibre, but remember to increase your intake slowly. The human gut reacts badly to sudden changes!

Eat probiotics

Probiotics are foods that contain beneficial live microorganisms intended to maintain or improve our gut flora. These include fermented foods like miso and tempeh and the ‘Special Ks’ Kimchi, Kefir, SauerKraut and of course - Kombucha.

Eat polyphenol rich foods

This includes dark chocolate and red wine (in moderation).

Only take antibiotics when absolutely necessary

Antibiotic treatment reduces the overall diversity of gut microbiota species which, among other things, increases gut susceptibility to colonisation by harmful organisms.

So the message is quite simple one. Look after your gut and it will look after you. Cut out processed foods, eat colourful fresh fruit and vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds and consider adding fermented foods to your diet. If you’re not a fan of cabbage or dairy or you want a simple tasty way for that fermented boost, then try one of our deliciously tangy KTea Kombucha!

Anyone with gastrointestinal sensitivities or decreased immune function should always take medical advice before altering their diet.

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