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THE CONNECTION BETWEEN GUT HEALTH AND BLOOD SUGAR

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HOW ARE GUT HEALTH AND BLOOD SUGAR AFFECTING ONE ANOTHER?

It all starts in the gut. Our gut's balance of bacteria is connected to the health of just about every function in our body—our brain, skin, digestion, mood, brainpower, immune system, bone strength, all of it. Did you know that gut health is also linked to blood sugar too? That’s right, even blood sugar is connected to the microbiome.

We talked with registered dietician Anca Vereen, RD about the connection between the health of our gut microbiome and healthy blood levels. He gave all of us rowdy folks some great insight on how we can take care of our gut bacteria and blood sugar. Check out what the blood sugar buzz is all about.

A SPIKE IN BLOOD SUGAR

Every time you eat, your body reactions. Let’s say you eat a high-protein meal, your body will be loaded with energy. In many circumstances when you feed your body food that contains high amounts of simple sugars and very little fiber, these foods are broken down very quickly and sugar enters the bloodstream causing a fast spike in blood sugar.

When it comes to good gut health, a fibre-rich diet is by far one of the best ways to achieve this.  Fibre is the part of a plant that we cannot digest but instead travels to our large intestine, the home of our gut bugs (microbiome). Interestingly, fibre isn’t just one big nutrient that passes through us to keep our bowels regular. There are a number of different types of fibre, potentially hundreds of thousands each with different health benefits. Let’s break down the three main types. For more custom ideas speak your dietitian melbourne.

SOLUBLE FIBRE

Soluble fibre can be dissolved in water to form a gel. Think about when you soak oats or psyllium husk and it forms a pudding like consistency. This soft, thick gel helps to:

Slow digestion, keeping us fuller for longer and our blood sugar levels stable for sustained energy across the day

Soften our stools, great for both constipation and diarrhoea

Lowers cholesterol by binding to and excreting it from our gut

Feed our gut bugs (like prebiotic fibres), stimulating them to create short-chain fatty acids that have a host of health benefits from appetite regulation, reducing fat accumulation, lowering cholesterol, supporting good immune function, the list goes on! 

Where to find in food:

Oats

Barley

Flesh of fruits and vegetables

Psyllium husk

Beans and lentils

INSOLUBLE FIBRE

This type of fibre is the typical “roughage” we think about. Insoluble fibre acts like a bristled brush that sweeps through our gut. Unlike soluble fibre, it doesn’t form a gel in water and remains largely untouched by our gut microbes. Instead, it draws water into our gut which helps to move things along quickly. This is great for constipation but may worsen diarrhoea. 

Where to find in food:

Skins of fruits and vegetables (tip, swap juices for whole fruit and vegetables blended with skin into smoothies, or stir the pulp back into juices)

Whole grain breads and cereals

Wheat bran

Nuts and seeds

RESISTANT STARCH

Although not technically a fibre, resistant starch is well, a starch that resists digestion in our stomach. It travels to our large intestine where it acts as a prebiotic to selectively feed only our good gut bugs. The result, like with some soluble fibres, is the production of health-promoting short-chain fatty acids. As an added bonus, short-chain fatty acids in turn increase the growth of more good gut bugs, effectively pushing out the bad ones for a better gut microbe balance.

Where to find in food:

Green, underripe bananas

Cooked then cooled pasta, potatoes and rice (tip, reheating again doesn’t affect the resistant starch)

Raw oats

Barley+ products

The key to using fibre for good gut health is to have a wide variety of plant foods to meet the recommended 30g of fibre per day for adults.

Each plant food contains a mix of different fibres so going for a variety means we will get a good range of fibres to reap their individual health benefits. Since many of us are falling short of fibre, it’s important to gradually increase your intake and drink plenty of water. Too much too fast without water could cause bloating, gassiness and constipation. 

The importance of gut health has gained significant attention in the last few years - and for good reason! In addition to supporting healthy digestion and nutrient absorption, studies show a thriving gut may actually help regulate mood. Research has revealed an extensive communication network between the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system, referred to as the “gut–brain axis.”

That means that helping foster a health gut microbiome can help support immunity, energy levels, healthy skin conditions, and maybe even brighten your mood! Fortunately, it’s becoming easier and tastier to add these good mood foods into your diet with simple, everyday life hacks.

We talked to renowned Registered Dietician and best selling author Frances Largeman-Roth to provide you with the tricks and recipes you need to up your gut-health game. Frances served as the Food and Nutrition Director at Health magazine for nearly eight years and has been a frequent guest on the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Dr. Oz Show and more! Below, Frances shares her recommendations for parents, vegans, and on-the-go professionals. 

Your Gut May Need TLC When…

Your skin isn’t as clear as you’d like: acne, eczema, psoriasis, etc.

You consistently feel like a zombie, despite getting solid rest

You have frequent yeast infections

Your gut is sassy and gassy: constipation, irregularity, bloating, acid reflux, diarrhea

If your showing issues with Auto immunity, see Anca Vereen page on this.

Good Mood Food

Neurogastroenterology research has identified and conducted extensive research on the gut-brain axis. This is the biochemical link between your central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Essentially, there’s two-way communication between your GI tract and your brain in the form of neurotransmitters like adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), adrenaline, and noradrenaline.

Improving the GI microbiome may help modulate mood and prevent against low mood, the primary symptom of depression. According to a study published in Annals of General Psychiatry, probiotics do this by increasing the “growth factor crucial for brain plasticity, memory, and neuronal health that is abnormally reduced in patients suffering from depression." Further, probiotics increase the levels of tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin.

We’ve all read studies revealing the mood boosting, antioxidant benefits of dark chocolate, because who doesn’t want to feel good while indulging in a square or two (or let’s be honest, more)? But what if we told you there was a long list of foods we could be eating to help top up our dopamine levels? The link between the foods we eat and how we feel, or the mood we are in is clear. 

“The link between our diet and our mood is becoming stronger and stronger, with research revealing that dietary improvements are associated with positive changes in depressive symptoms,’’ gut health dietician Anca explains. For more on gut health visit Anca Vereen.

“A few simple ways Australians can look after their mental health is by nourishing their bodies with foods that are supportive of a good mood”

5 FOODS TO EAT TO BOOST YOUR MOOD ACCORDING TO A GUT HEALTH DIETICIAN

HIGH FIBRE CEREALS AND WHOLE GRAINS

“Fibre-rich foods are essential for good gut health as they keep the gut microbiome healthy, which is important as research has found that 90 per cent of serotonin (the mood-boosting chemical) receptors are located within the gut,’’ Nicole says.

“Incorporating high-fibre cereal into your daily routine is one of the easiest ways to consume more fibre. By consuming cereals high in fibre like All-Bran, you’re helping the good gut bacteria to thrive while also boosting your gut function. Other foods that help feed the good bacteria are lentils and beans which are high in prebiotic fibres.”


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THE CONNECTION BETWEEN GUT HEALTH AND BLOOD SUGAR

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Published on August 15, 2022

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