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YOUR god gut GUIDE

Gut bacteria, microbiome, microbiota… Most of us know these terms are somehow connected to good health. But what do they mean for our daily diet? Jo Waters asked dietitian Dr Megan Rossi, a leading gut expert, for practical advice

10-STEP MAKEOVER to boost your health

ANYONE WANTING TO EASE gut complaints, such as bloating and IBS-type symptoms, is probably aware of the importance of gut bacteria. But improving the diversity of the trillions of bacteria that live in our gut (38 trillion is a commonly quoted figure) is increasingly being seen as a possible key foundation to achieving good health in general.

Around 1,000–1,500 species of bacteria have been identiied in the gut microbiota (the mixture of bacteria, yeasts and fungi found in the digestive tract), and study after study is showing the potential importance that diversity has for maintaining good health. This is more helpful than talking about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria, which gives the impression that taking a probiotic can cancel out eating a bad diet (it can’t).

The story so far

Research to date suggests the state of our microbiota may affect a multitude of health issues. These range from general immunity, IBS, bloating and inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, to the stiffness of the arteries in heart disease, kidney disease, skin conditions and even mental health disorders such as depression.

‘We now believe the gut microbiota can affect just about every organ in the body and is very important in the body’s immune system,’ says dietitian Dr Megan Rossi, research fellow at King’s College London, who also runs The Gut Health Clinic in London’s Harley Street precinct.

‘It’s only early days, in that we’ve yet to determine whether intervening on the gut microbes can improve the health of our other organs, with diets targeting gut microbes, but that’s where science is heading. It’s looking promising in many areas, including our mental health,’ she says. ‘The intestine is 9 metres long, and 70% of our immune system lies within it, so it’s clearly essential to our immunity. We also know the microbiota produces molecules that get into our blood and can ‘talk’ to our brains and other organs.’

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About Healthy Food Guide

Improve your gut health with our top 10 dietitian tips, plus gut-friendly recipes. Get the latest on low-carb diets for diabetes, and find out why your doctor could prescribe ditching the pills in favour of exercise. We celebrate Chinese New Year with super-quick veggie recipes and give you a taste of gut-calming low-FODMAP meals. And don’t miss the chance to win a foodie glamping weekend at Valley Fest!