Team Up with California Prunes
Getting to the Real Gut of the Matter!
“Research is showing that the gut-brain connection is more influential than what we once thought.”
The good and the bad (gut bacteria)
The human gut (or gastrointestinal [GI] tract) is typically referred to as our stomach and intestines. The gut is where most of the food that we consume is broken down, and where nutrients are absorbed into the body. This is why it is crucial for us to take care of our gut, as it can impact our long-term health.
The gut acts as one of the many barriers protecting us from pathogens, such as certain diseases, viruses and bad bacteria. Limiting this bad bacterium can influence the amount of good bacteria, that not only eliminates unwanted (bad) bacteria, but also helps us digest food and absorb vitamins and minerals.
Our bodies are full of bacteria, both good and bad. Good gut bacteria have a profound impact on boosting the immune system and reducing the risk of many types of diseases.
Getting more of the good
We want to promote the growth of these healthy bacteria in the gut by choosing foods that are naturally high in good bacteria or probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for you, and especially for your digestive system. Probiotics are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy. By keeping our gut healthy, we are also feeding our mind positively. There are some studies that link a positive balance of good bacteria cultures in our gut with our mental health (Skonoieczna-Zydecka K. et al, 2018). Research is showing that the gut-brain connection is more influential than what we once thought.
These healthy gut bacteria cultures, as mentioned above, also have a positive impact on our immune health—which can be linked to better mental health as well.
Nutrition essentials that promote good gut health and the good bacteria
- Get Your Fibre (Soluble and Insoluble): As mentioned, having enough daily fibre is one of the first defences in protecting the gut against harmful bacteria. Did you know, Canadians are, on average, consuming only half of their daily recommended intake of fibre? The daily recommended intake for adult women is 25g, and for adult men it is 38g (Government of Canada, 2020). Fibre is considered a food source for good gut bacteria, and it helps promote more growth of good bacteria cultures. Fibre also plays a role in our digestive health.
- Sorbitol: The naturally occurring sugar found in foods such as California Prunes act as a sponge, drawing water into the intestinal tract which makes stools softer, thus keeping bowel function optimal and preventing constipation.
- Phenols: These are types of antioxidants, also found in California Prunes. These not only aid in supporting immune function, but they get fermented by gut bacteria, which provides its laxative effect and helps promote bowel regularity.
- Pre and Pro Biotics: Including probiotics as part of a regular diet can increase the amount of beneficial bacteria colonies found in the intestines, thus reducing common gastrointestinal issues caused by restrictive diets and/or common bowel diseases, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Prebiotics are in foods such as bananas, artichokes and chicory root, which are essential as they act as food for the probiotics to live and thrive.
Common gastrointestinal issues
As a sports dietitian, one of the most common gastrointestinal issues I see with my clients is IBS. This occurs not just in athletes, but also the general public. Canadians actually have one of the highest prevalences of IBS in the world (Canadian Digestive health foundation, 2020). IBS is not well understood at the moment, but is thought to be signaled from the gut to brain (otherwise known as the gut/brain axis). This can be caused from digesting certain foods or stress and anxiety (BC Health link. 2020). The symptoms of IBS can also be triggered by certain types of sugars known as fermentable oligosaccharide, disaccharide, monosaccharide and polyols (FODMAP), which are simply medium chained sugars which take longer to break down in the gut, thus causing fermentation and bloating/gas. The symptoms are generally managed by following a low FODMAP food diet. However, if you plan on doing this diet it should be monitored and followed by your dietitian to help guide you through the process.
Other gut-related diseases that are common are diverticulitis (painful inflamed pockets in colon) and colon cancer. This is normally due to a lack of fibre and or activity in your overall diet and lifestyle which leads to bowel irregularity.
The top four key things you can do to promote a healthy gut:
- Get your daily recommended intake of fibre: Having a serving of 4-5 California Prunes will help meet your fibre needs by providing 3 grams of both soluble and insoluble fiber.
- Limit your intake of added sugars: California Prunes are a naturally sweet snack that can be easily incorporated into any diet, at any age. They can help decrease your intake of added sugary treats by providing natural sweetness combined with added health benefits. They are a perfect mix of nutrients (such as vitamin K and potassium), combined with other important nutrients to boost overall immunity, bone and of course, gut health. Incorporate California Prunes into easy snack recipes such as overnight oats or a yogurt parfait. You can also make a prune puree and add them into your favourite baked goods recipes, or simply eat out of hand when you‘re on the go! California Prunes is an easy, versatile food that you can add to you and your family’s diet, knowing you are doing your gut, body and mind good!
- Prebiotics and probiotics: Include foods with both pre and pro biotic cultures, daily. Examples of Prebiotic foods are bananas, chicory root and artichokes. Probiotics are found in foods such as yogurt, kefir, miso, kimchi and kombucha.
- Keep active: Regular physical activity helps with both mental and physical heath. Don’t forget to keep hydrated too!
- BC Health link. (2020). Irritable Bowel Syndrome. https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/hw117851
- Canadian Digestive health foundation. (2020). What is irritable bowel syndrome? https://cdhf.ca/digestive-disorders/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs/what-is-irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs/
- Government of Canada (2020). Fibre. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/nutrients/fibre.html
- Skonoieczna-Zydecka K, Marlicz W, Misera A, Koulaouzidis A, & Loniewski I. Microbiome—The Missing Link in the Gut-Brain Axis: Focus on Its Role in Gastrointestinal and Mental Health. J. Clin. Med, 2018; 7(521)
Angela Dufour is one of Canada’s TOP Sports Nutrition Experts. She consults with athletes of all ages and calibre and has helped hundreds of clients, achieve their health and fitness goals!
Angela is a leading expert in high performance sports nutrition working as the Lead Performance Dietitian for the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Team Canada for the 2018 Pyeong Chang Winter Olympics, 2019 Pan American Games, Peru, 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics and 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics!
Angela can be found on CTV News at Five often delivering key messages on food and nutrition and is a proud mom of ONE active boy! As a part time faculty instructor at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax NS, in the Applied Human Nutrition Department, she is a mentor to many students and interns.
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