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Sugar and your Gut Health

Did you know that the make-up of your gut bacteria can be harmful to your health?

This all depends on what we feed our gut bacteria. Our gut bacteria thrives on fibre. Fibre that we mainly get from fruits and vegetables, but also grains, beans, lentils and nuts& seeds. If we giving our gut bacteria a diet based mainly on fibre, we are doing a huge amount to support it in a positive way. However, gut bacteria is really susceptible to changes in our diet. If we feed it lots of sugar and processed foods,  studies have shown that the Proteobacteria increases, while the beneficial Bacteroidetes population decreases.

But what does this mean?

Proteobacteria bacteria increase inflammation. Inflammation in our gut increases the risk of leaky-gut. This means that foods and chemicals that should stay in our gut are now able to go where they want through the blood stream. People that have multiple food intolerances more than likely have leaky-gut.

Inflammation in the gut, also leads to inflammation in the body. So those aches and pains that you may have in your joints may be stemming from the health of your gut.

Bacteroidetes on the other hand are anti-inflammatory. While the mechanism of how this happens is not fully understood yet, they have been shown in mice models to reduce inflammatory markers. The also have a  protective effect on the cells of the gut against damage. This protects your gut from becoming leaky. The Bacteroidetes food of choice? Yes, you’ve guessed it – Fibre!

If you’re addicted to sugar it’s not so easy to come off it. Many people are on a sugar rollercoaster – easy to get on, not so easy to get off. When you eat foods high in sugar this raises the levels of sugar in your blood. The body likes to keep this between certain levels, and if it goes too high it sends out Insulin to package it up and bring it to the cells for use as energy. However, if the blood sugar is very high, the insulin is release in levels higher than is really needed. This results in too much sugar from the blood being removed, resulting in low blood sugar. The body doesn’t like this either. So the stress hormone Cortisol is then released. This signals the body to release some sugar from the stores, but more importantly to refuel. As this is seen as an emergency situation it’s not looking for an apple, but more for a quick fix. More sugar! And the cycle starts all over again.

How can you get off the sugar rollercoaster and support your gut health and get your energy back onto an even keel?

Start by changing your breakfast. Swap those high carbohydrate, and sometimes sugar laced, cereals for a breakfast higher in protein.

Protein is broken down in the stomach, so it slows down the breakdown of food for energy. This means that your blood sugar levels stay balanced and you feel fuller for longer. Try my Nutty granola for a high protein, healthy fat option. Eggs are also another great breakfast option that’s quick and filling. Add some spinach or mushrooms to the eggs for a super gut food!

Also add protein to your snacks.

So you may be having fruit for a snack, and though great for health they can be high in sugar. While definitely not as bad as processed sugar, they can still raise your blood sugar levels and leave you wanting something sweeter. Add in some nuts, or nutbutter. Avocado or hummus on oat cakes are also great options, adding in healthy fats as you go.

If, like me, chocolate is your sugary treat of choice, swap it for the darker version.

The darker version is lower in sugar, but also has lots for fibre and polyphenols. These polyphenols are antioxidants (helping to fight damage in the body) and they are known to reduce inflammation. The lower sugar also means you can’t eat that much of it – 6 small squares is a perfect portion size, and the bitterness helps to nip that sugar craving in the bud.

Are you concerned for your gut health, but are not sure how to go about changing what you eat to support it? Why not join me for my 5 week live on-line course to learn all about your gut health and how to support it. I’ll be sharing lots of practical tips like those above to make these changes as easy as I can.

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