Autumn, with its link to the Large Intestine meridian in Traditional Chinese medicine, is a great time to start nourishing your gut with pre-biotic foods.
Bowel flora is made up of a multitude of different bacteria that live in the large bowel, it is said that an average person has about 1.2 kg weight of bacteria in their bowel.
There are two types of bacteria friendly and unfriendly. It is the friendly variety that plays a vital role in keeping our body healthy and these are mainly made up of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium. The ways they do this are:
- Some of these bacteria can synthesise essential vitamins and minerals and the acid conditions they produce are particularly favourable to the absorption of calcium and iron.
- The lactic acid producing bacteria and particularly those in the lactobacilli family produce some natural antibiotics which will inhibit the growth of, and destroy, the potentially pathogenic bacteria that can take up residence in the bowel.
- These have also been linked to the production of anti-tumour agents.
- The bacteria also help with the breakdown of undigested food that reaches the bowel, so completing the digestion process.
In good health the bowel should be slightly acidic, the same as the skin of our body and at this pH the growth of these friendly bacteria is facilitated. They feed on lactose and so produce lactic acid that the unfriendly bacteria do not like, as they favour a more alkaline environment.
A healthy gut full of lots of friendly bacteria will always keep the unfriendly ones under control.
One way of supporting our gut flora is by eating pre-biotic food. Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates or fibre that provide food for probiotics and the fermentation of this fibre creates a positive impact to our bowel flora. It is worth pointing out that not all fibre is prebiotic
These include: Asparagus, bananas, berries, broccoli, chia seeds, chicory root, dandelion leaves, flax seeds, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, kale, leeks, legumes, oats, wholegrains.