Gut instincts

With rising interest in digestive health, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy gut, reports Charlee Singleton.

In recent years, the term ‘gut health’ has transcended the medical world to become a buzzword in the wellness industry. The shift isn’t without merit; emerging research consistently underscores the importance of a healthy gut in maintaining our well-being, with more than 50,000 papers published on the gut microbiome in the last ten years alone. And the general public are taking note, as Holland and Barrett’s recent Gut Health Report found that monthly searches for ‘gut health’ in the UK have increased by 23% year on year, averaging 23,000 searches per month.

The gut, often referred to as the body’s ‘second brain,’ plays a pivotal role in various bodily functions beyond digestion.  Everything from mental health to our immune system is influenced by the gut, and yet, amidst the hustle and bustle of modern life the well-being of our gut often takes a backseat, leading to multiple health issues.

“Looking after your gut health means looking after your overall health, gut microbes do things the gut can’t do.”

The Gut Microbiome: A Complex Ecosystem

At the heart of gut health lies the gut microbiome, a complex collection of trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi that reside in your gut – primarily in the large intestine. These microorganisms are uniquely influenced by your specific diet and lifestyle choices, and actively contribute to your physical and mental health.

“Your gut microbiome has the power to communicate and influence the health of other organs in the body, including the brain, skin, liver and heart. So looking after your gut health means looking after your overall health,” says Dr Sammie Gill, Symprove’s specialist gastroenterology dietician.

“Gut microbes do things the gut can’t do. For example, they break down all of the non-digestible nutrients (such as fibre and plant compounds). In exchange, they release beneficial compounds that get absorbed into the bloodstream and have downstream effects on other organs of the body.

“Your gut microbes are also mentors to your immune system (of which 70% sits along your gut), influencing how it behaves. In fact, they support the immune system to develop by teaching and training it to react appropriately. Some gut microbes are able to produce vitamins, such as vitamin K and some B vitamins.”

Inside Gut Influences

Whilst several factors influence the functionality of the gut microbiome, diet plays the most significant role and is thought to account for up to 60% of the influence on your digestive health. A diverse and balanced diet supports a healthy microbiome. Foods high in fibre, such as whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, serve as prebiotics, which feed beneficial bacteria, whilst fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi introduce probiotics—live beneficial bacteria—into the gut.

“While both prebiotics and probiotics support gut health, they work in different ways when they reach the gut,” explains Gill. “Prebiotics are mainly types of fermentable fibre that act as ‘food’ for your resident gut microbes to feast on. On the other hand, probiotics are live microbes that you’re ‘adding in’ – they prompt favourable health effects as they move through your gut.”

UK adults should be aiming for 30g of fibre a day, but most are getting less than 20g – mainly due to the modern diet which is high in saturated fat, sugar and consists largely of processed foods. These diets not only limit the amount of fibre but can also disrupt the microbial balance leading to a variety of health issues.

But its not just about food. “There are so many other factors that can influence the health of your gut beyond what you eat,” Gill adds. “For example, your mental state (e.g. how stressed you feel), how much physical activity you do, whether you’re taking unnecessary medications, whether you have a pet, whether you’re managing to get a good night’s sleep, whether you have a health condition, whether you smoke or drink in excess.”

So lifestyle factors can also influence gut health, but the reverse is also true. A disruption in the gut microbiome can cause sleep disruption, which in turn can promote metabolic dysfunction. Beneficial bacteria can aid in the creation of hormones such as serotonin and melatonin, which are important for our sleep/wake cycles. While antibiotics are crucial for treating bacterial infections, they can also indiscriminately kill beneficial bacteria, leading to dysbiosis.

“Nurture your gut microbiome well with the right things and it will reward you. If you don’t, it can start to suffer which can have implications for health later down the line.”

Dodging Dysbiosis

Dysbiosis, an imbalance in gut bacteria, has been linked to several health issues including chronic fatigue and chronic inflammation, along with an increased susceptibility to infections. Recent research also shows links between the microbiome and risks of cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

The most common signs of poor gut health include digestive issues like persistent bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhoea and heartburn, however the symptoms of an unhealthy gut can be far and wide. Poor sleep, low energy levels, frequent infections, and skin conditions such as eczema and acne have all been linked to imbalances in the gut microbiome.

Mood disorders such as anxiety and depression can be exacerbated by an unhealthy gut due to the gut-brain connection – The Cost of Constipation Report, 2020 from Bowel Interest Group found that 40% of patients with constipation experience anxiety disorder; 38% experience depression; and 68% reported that constipation affects their performance at work or at school. Chronic stress can also alter gut sensitivity and increase intestinal permeability, often referred to as “leaky gut syndrome.” This condition allows harmful substances to enter the bloodstream, potentially triggering inflammation.

“Nurture your gut microbiome well with the right things and it will reward you. If you don’t, it can start to suffer which can have implications for health later down the line. Looking after your gut health means looking after your overall health,” says Gill.

“Focus on plants (fruit, veggies, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, herbs, spices). They are packed with different types of fibre and health-promoting phytochemicals (i.e. plant chemicals like polyphenols).

“In fact, a study at the University of Bergen in Norway found that a diet rich in plant-based foods (such as beans, wholegrains, and nuts) can add up to a decade to your life.

“Data from the American Gut Project showed that people who ate at least 30 different plant-based foods per week had a more diverse gut microbiome than those who ate fewer than 10 different plant-based foods per week.

“Each community of microbes in your gut have different ‘preferences’ so keep them well fed and nourish them with a variety of plant-based foods.

“Other ways to support gut health? Get outside, keep active, prioritise sleep, and manage stress.”

 

Symprove Daily Essential

Symprove
https://www.symprove.com/

Our carefully crafted capsules are packed with a powerful blend of B vitamins, specifically formulated to support your mental performance and combat tiredness*. Each Zenflore® capsule also contains an impressive 10^9 live Bifidobacterium longum bacteria strain 1714®, ensuring your gut receives the optimal dose of beneficial bacteria for your overall wellbeing.*Zenflore®contains vitamins B6 and B12 both contribute to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue and Pantothenic acid which contributes to normal mental performance.

 

The Gut Co Immune Boost

The Gut Co
https://thegutco.com/

The Gut Co’s Immune Boost is a groundbreaking solution that combines probiotics, prebiotics, and postbiotics to fortify your body’s natural defenses. A carefully-crafted blend of vitamins, minerals and pre + probiotics clinically-proven to maintain healthy gut immune function. Our unique Immune Boost formula is crafted from a potent blend of prebiotics, live probiotics, vitamins and minerals that have been carefully selected for their gut-balancing and immune-boosting properties.
Our unique tablet technology also enables ingredients to be absorbed at different rates. By utilising a time-released delivery system, our formula reduces contraindication within the digestive tract, allowing each ingredient to be processed and absorbed by the body at the most effective time.

 

Holland & Barrett Triple Action Biotic Gut Formula

Holland & Barrett
https://www.hollandandbarrett.com/

Holland & Barrett Expert Triple Action Biotic Gut Formula is our most advanced triple action, high strength, gut health complex. It contains natural kiwi fibre plus 50 billion clinically studied live bacteria and calcium lactate. This is one of the only supplements of its kind which provides triple action support for your gut.

Holland & Barrett Triple Action Biotic Gut Formular contains nine different clinically studied strains of live good bacteria, with 50 billion live bacteria in total. Scientific technology has been used to ensure that these bacteria reach the gut alive. This special triple action, high strength formula also contains other gut supporting ingredients, such as kiwi fibre and calcium. Kiwi fibre is derived from natural whole fruit and is a food source for the live friendly bacteria, supporting their survival and reproduction. Calcium contributes to the normal function of digestive enzymes.

Just take two of these easy to swallow capsules each day, preferably with a meal, to help keep your friendly bacteria topped up.

 

Bio-Kult Everyday Gut

Bio-Kult
www.bio-kult.co.uk 

We believe that a healthier, happier quality of life starts with your unique microbiome. The UK’s number 1 live bacteria brand* has been at the forefront of developing conversation around the gut and the microbiome for the past 25 years. Bio-Kult is a scientifically developed, advanced multi-strain live bacteria supplement, containing 14 live bacterial cultures proven to survive the high acidity of the stomach, and to complement the existing gut flora naturally present in a healthy person’s digestive system. Bio-Kult does not need to be refrigerated and can be taken as part of a healthy diet. With help from our in-house team of scientists, researchers and nutritional experts, we develop our own extensive range of bacteria products to provide something for everyone, with targeted microbiome support. With over 10,000 positive reviews, 30 trials and over 80 awards in the past 5 years, Bio-Kult gives your customers the confidence to take care of them and that’s something to be celebrated – all in all, making life a little more digestible!

 

Nudums: Nothing-But-Fruit Probiotic Gummies

Vegums
https://vegums.com

Vegums, a pioneer in the plant-based supplement industry, has proudly unveiled its latest creation: Nudums, Nothing-But-Fruit Probiotic Gummies. These innovative gummies redefine gut health support, combining the nutritional benefits of apples, strawberries, blackberries, cherries, and raspberries with potent probiotics. Nudums stand as a testament to Vegums’ commitment to purity, ethics, and the delicious taste that their customers know and love. Each gummy is packed with 2 billion live cultures so a daily dose of one gummy for children aged over 3, and two gummies for adults is the perfect amount of friendly bacteria to support gut health.

 

Kimchi

The Cultured Food Company
 https://www.culturedfoodco.ie/

Kimchi a traditional South Korean delicacy. Piquant and pungent this is our most intense ferment. Chinese cabbage, radish, carrot, spring onions, garlic, ginger, chilli powder and fish sauce are all naturally fermented for several months resulting in this national dish of South Korea. Kimchi is a fresh, hot and spicy mix of flavours which will liven up any dish. Naturally rich in beneficial bacteria and live enzymes consume kimchi as part of a balanced diet to support gut health and well being.

Our Kimchi is:

  • 100% raw and unpasteurised
  • Rich in beneficial bacteria
  • Rich in vitamins C & K, potassium, calcium & phosphorus
  • Contain no artificial flavourings, chemicals or preservatives
  • Traditional South Korean recipe

 

Suma Organic Sparkling Kombucha

Suma
https://www.precisionbiotics.co.uk/

This wholefoods staple has been on our to do list for ages and we’ve finally gotten around to it! As you’d expect, they’re ethically sourced and plant-based. Oh, and they’re absolutely delicious! We’ve combined high quality natural ingredients to create a tasty and lower calorie alternative to alcoholic drinks and sugary sodas. Choose from traditional Ginger, zingy Peach and Turmeric or fruity Strawberry and Raspberry. Brewed just around the corner in Yorkshire using traditional methods with no artificial sweeteners, they’re 100% vegan and sparkling with a billion kombucha cultures. They’re perfect served chilled straight from the can or mixed with other ingredients for a tasty cocktail.

 

Bio & Me Gut Friendly Flapjacks

Bio & Me
https://bioandme.co.uk/

Co-founded by The Gut Health Doctor, Dr Megan Rossi, Bio&Me’s range of gut-friendly flapjack bars is shaking up the cereal bar aisle. Available in Toffee Apple, Superberry and Cocoa Hazelnut flavours, the range of all-natural flapjack oat bars are packed with 9+ different types of plant goodness, are high in fibre, gluten free, and contain absolutely no added sugar or artificial sweeteners. The range was created following a customer survey, where 91% of respondents favoured bars when asked which gut-loving product they’d like the brand to produce.
“Now more than ever, consumers are looking at what’s actually in the food they’re eating, and for us, as a credible, science-backed brand, it was important for these bars to be the absolute best.” says Jon Walsh, co-founder and CEO of Bio&Me.