Part 2: Blame it on your bacteria
Bacteria live in us, on us and all around us. There’s more genetic material from bacteria in our bodies than from us. At least 2kg of our weight is bacteria.
Our bacteria are us.
It’s no wonder that we’re finding out how big a part bacteria play on determining our health.
If you’ve ever wondered why you’re feeling bloated? Bacteria are one possible answer. And here I’ll share with you how. It's a bit sciency, but I promise you a light bulb moment!
Most of our bacteria live in our large intestine (AKA the colon or bowel).
Good health is grounded in having different types of bacteria growing in just the right balance.
Carbohydrates are the favourite foods of bacteria (they eat proteins too, but much prefer carbs).
If your bacteria are more-or-less in the right balance and in the right amounts, eating carbs will keep your bacteria happy. Especially if you’re eating plenty of fibre: wholegrains, fruit, vegetables (and their skins), beans and lentils.
If that balance of bacteria is weighted towards certain bacteria, or you’re growing too many bacteria then the foods that keep them happy just make them feed more and more. And grow and grow.
When bacteria eat carbs they ferment them. Fermentation produces gas and heat.
So that’s your bloating! [light bulb!!!!!]
And if you've got overgrowth of bacteria in your stomach, well that can be the cause of your reflux!
This is a catch 22.
So we know high fibre carbs are good for our gut bacteria. Study after study has shown how a high fibre diet gives us the best bacterial growth in our gut.
BUT. If you’re growing the wrong balance of bacteria, in the wrong amounts, then feeding them carbs can make them grow more, giving you bloating, tummy pain and a host of different symptoms.
One step backwards, two steps forwards
We know that FODMAP foods are the favourite foods of gut bacteria. And we know that these foods grow great gut bacteria. So, in the long term we want these foods in your daily diet.
We know that limiting FODMAP foods cuts down the amounts of bacteria in your gut. We also know that limiting FODMAP foods cuts down the number of different types of bacteria we find in your gut. So, in the long term following a low FODMAP diet is not a good idea.
The ideal picture for your gut bacteria is for them to be growing in the right amounts and growing the right type. This promotes health and reduces inflammation in your body.
If, however, you are suffering with digestive problems like tummy pain, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation then sometimes we need to take one step back to go two steps forwards.
By limiting the favourite foods of your gut bacteria in the short term we can promote gut healing enough to start growing the right bacteria in the right amounts.
So in the long term you can eat these foods without triggering symptoms. Then you can receive all the health benefits of these foods without upsetting your digestion.
Sometimes we need to take one step back to go two steps forwards.
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Next week I'll share with you what you really need to know about a low FODMAP diet before you get started.
Katrina Pace, Dietitian
Gut bugs fascinate me. Diet and gut bugs intrigue me. Cooking is essential. Add them all together and you get a fairly interesting opinion on life! In my humble opinion.