Gut Health: A Glossary
You might have noticed we’ve been on a bit of a health kick lately. A gut health kick to be precise. It’s something that’s really close to our hearts here at Nairn’s, partly because we’re all about good feelings and partly because oats are so beneficial to help keep your gut health in check. We are aware that it’s a world that can be slightly daunting to the novice, seemingly full of jargon and medical-sounding terms that can appear a lot more complicated than they actually are.
Don’t worry though, we’re here to cover a few of the most common terms that crop up when discussing matters of the gut. You’ll probably find these handy when watching our gut health experts do their thing – plus you’ll have some brand new info to impress your friends with!
It might sound a bit sci-fi, but a microbiome is much more commonplace than that. In fact, everyone has one. It’s basically a term for the huge ecosystem of vital bacteria that calls your digestive tract home. Each microbiome contains around 100 trillion of these little guys and they’re so important because it’s their job to break down anything we put into our body and turn it into something nutritional. Collectively, the stuff that makes up your microbiome weighs around 2kg!
Fibre is essentially the part of whatever we eat (or sometimes drink) that cannot be absorbed by our digestive tract. That might make it sound a bit pointless, but fibre actually plays a crucial role in our gut health. The main job fibre does is to keep things moving, so to speak. That’s why people who are having trouble with bowel function are often encouraged to up their fibre intake. There are two different kinds; soluble and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre is the one you want if you’re looking to speed up digestion – and there’s plenty to be found in oats and oatcakes!
This particular term refers to the chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria, yeasts, or other microorganisms. The process produces a brine or acid as a byproduct of the fermentation process. Kimchi(the Korean staple made up of cabbages, radishes and other fermented vegetables) is fermented. Same goes for sauerkrautand kombucha(a type of tea) and kefir(milk that’s been fermented using live cultures) too. Fermentation is often spoken about in relation to gut health as fermented foods are especially good for keeping the trillions of little occupants found in our microbiome happy.
Prebiotics are essentially high-fibre, non-digestible carbohydrates that are the perfect foodstuff for all those good bacteria living in your gut. In short a great way to keep your gut healthy. Foods that are rich in prebiotics are things like bananas, oats, asparagus and barley.
This is basically another way to refer to the ‘good’ bacteria that each one of us host. They’re naturally occurring but can be topped up (to help the digestive process and increase our nutrient intake) by eating probiotic rich food such as the fermented ones we mentioned earlier; sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi and kombucha.
Coeliac disease is classified as an autoimmune disease that’s caused by an intolerance to gluten, and it’s becoming more common. Many people with the disease can go undiagnosed for a long period of time, living with symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation, vomiting, stomach cramps, mouth ulcers, fatigue and anaemia. These symptoms are eased by those diagnosed with coeliac disease following a gluten free diet which can be tricky in the early days as gluten is found in many different foods. The Coeliac UK website is a great place to start for anyone wanting to find out more about symptoms and diagnosis. Guidelines from the British Society of Gastroentologists changed in recent years, and gluten free oats are now deemed safe to eat from diagnosis.
…there are many more terms relating to gut health that you’ll no doubt encounter on your travels exploring this fascinating world. We could go on all day! Hopefully this gives you a better idea of some of the most frequently used terms though – you’ll be an expert in no time. In the meantime, check out the films from our gut health gurus….