What is a gut microbiome and why is it important to have a healthy one?
The gut microbiome is a huge number of micro-organsisms that live in your gut. It is made up of a variety of bacteria, viruses and other micro-organisms that live in your gastrointestinal tract, mostly in the large bowel. Most research has focused on the bacteria to date.
These bacteria have been associated with many health conditions including inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and IBS, obesity, and some cancers. They can also affect your mood and mental health via the “gut-brain axis”. Hence it is important to look after these microbiome bacteria and feed them correctly.
Gut microbiota flourish in the presence of resistant starch, a form of dietary fibre, found in plant based foods, such as corn, rice, beans, legumes and fruit and vegetables. Resistant starch is a type of starch that cannot be digested in the small intestine. It makes it’s way to the large bowel where the bacteria are able to ferment it.
When the microbiota ferment the resistant starch, a substance called butyrate is produced, which is the preferred energy for the cells lining the large bowel as well as being very important for the immune system.
Where can you get resistant starch?
Research has shown that resistant starch is enhanced by cooking and cooling starchy foods, such as potatoes, rice and pasta. The cooking process changes the structure of parts of the starch, amylose and amylopectin. When the starch cools down the realignment of these components increases the amount of resistant starch in the food, increasing the quantity of food for the bacteria in the large bowel. Some examples of food containing resistant starch are sushi, cold potato or pasta salad, cous cous and corn salad.