Nutritional therapist and author of The Gut Makeover, Jeannette Hyde explains how…
The kilo and a half of bacteria in our guts, the “ microbiome ” has been linked with controlling our weight, immune system, digestive, skin and brain health . This means it’s really important to keep it in good shape and flourishing. So what can you do to manipulate it without forking out on expensive probiotic supplements or drinks? It’s really easy. Here's how.
1) Rotate your veg
Try to eat masses of a variety of veg and some fruit every day. The fibre and plant chemicals in the colours provide food for the good bacteria in your gut and help it to flourish. You don’t have to focus on expensive ones, it can be any you like, and can afford. The main thing to remember is to rotate round and don’t stick on one food. So if you have been having avocado (which can be expensive) with your eggs every day, try making different omelettes across your week. For example, rotate around your onions - red, or yellow, or white, or spring. Think about rotating around other veg such as spinach, courgettes, peppers, leeks and mushrooms. Keep life interesting!
2) Don't bin your stalks
Parts of vegetables and fruit we usually chuck in the bin are potentially the most beneficial for our microbiome. Did you know that the stalks of broccoli and cauliflowers and the core of pineapples are all super good for the gut? Broccoli and cauliflower stalks contain types of fibre which can’t be digested in the upper part of the digestive system and survive all the way to the colon, where the biggest amount of gut bacteria thrive, and provide food for the bacteria there to have a party on and make you healthy.
So this means: chop up the stems of broccoli and cauliflower in your soups and blend them in your blender so they are easy to eat. Grate them into your stir fries and chop small in your tray bakes. Pineapples contain bromelain enzymes which can help to break down your food and aid digestion. The core contains even more bromelain than the softer areas of the fruit, so I like to put the core into a morning smoothie and blend in a blender with 200ml of kefir (see point 4), and a tablespoon of flax seeds (see point 3) for a tasty, filling, and gut-healthy breakfast. You could also add a cheap banana – which contains some inulin which is also a favourite feeding material for your gut bacteria.
3) Get your flax seed fix
Flax seeds are a brilliant food for your gut bacteria and can help keep your gut lining healthy too. A healthy gut lining is essential for healthy skin on the outside too. Why bother with chia seeds when flax seeds are up to a fifth of the price? I often buy these in Tesco for 75p !
4) Don’t be a snob about frozen fruit
Dark black cherries, blueberries, raspberries which contain polyphenols in their dark colours are a superfood for your gut bacteria. They are often cheaper than fresh ones, especially when out of season. Just chuck them in a blender with kefir and flax seeds in the morning. Remember to rotate the ones you use.
5) Fermented milk kefir is also a great way to boost the bacteria in your gut
It often has much higher numbers of bacteria (usually into the tens of billions) than mainstream supermarket probiotic drinks. It contains lactobacillus bacteria to plant in your gut which is needed for a healthy microbiome. Many people who can’t tolerate lactose, can digest kefir well because it has been fermented as explained in this video .
Kefir can help improve your digestion and digestive health. Affordable kefirs are often found in Eastern European corner shops around the UK, e.g. Polish, Hungarian, Russian. If you have been walking past these shops, now’s the time to take a peek! Eastern Europeans have been drinking kefir for decades for health and in Russia women have used it for weight loss for years. Interestingly, new research on mice is now backing the latter weight loss angle up too.
6) Make your own kefir at home
If you really get into kefir, it’s even cheaper to make your own and once you know, it is quick and easy. You’ll need 750ml of full fat unhomogenized milk (such as Waitrose's Duchy Organic or Graham's Gold Jersey milks - I found that it didn’t work so well when I tried homogenized milk), and a tablespoon of live kefir grains (not freeze dried – I have had no success with these). Live kefir grains are available from eBay online sellers, and some health food stores now sell them from the fridge section. Leave the grains in the milk for between 24 and 36 hours in a warm room with a cloth on top.
Stir occasionally with a wooden or plastic spoon (don’t use metal as this can disrupt the fermentation process). When it has taken on the consistency of drinking yoghurt, strain the grains out (I use a plastic colander) into a jar, or bottle and store in the fridge until needed. Put the grains into a glass in your fridge in a puddle of milk to keep the grains active for a few days till you need to use them again. This and recipes for making goat’s milk and coconut kefir are also included in The Gut Makeover Recipe Book.
Also try this recipe for a Pink Kefir Shake from The Gut Makeover Recipe Book...
250ml fermented milk kefir
A handful of fresh or frozen black cherries
2cm of fresh ginger, peeled
1 tablespoon of flax seeds
Add the ingredients to a powerful blender and pulse until smooth. Drink immediately before the ingredients separate and follow by drinking a large glass of water to help digestion.
Jeannette Hyde is a Registered Nutritional Therapist (BSc mBANT, CNHC) who specialises in helping people lose weight, improve digestive symptoms, skin, mood, memory and immune system through her innovative gut diet approach. She is the author of The Gut Makeover , and The Gut Makeover Recipe Book .