The relationship between well-being and intestinal flora
We at Healthy Family are curious about the relationship between well-being and intestinal flora. Is all the talk about an anti-inflammatory diet just a fad, like so many other things, or is there a kernel of truth in how intestinal flora can affect our health? To answer this, we invited science journalist Henrik Ennart, co-writer of the book Happy Food, who is well versed in the subject.
Why is intestinal flora so relevant right now?
“There will always be people hyping up the importance of intestinal flora, but the most important thing about it is that it does affect how the body feels. Everything is connected. The science shows that intestinal flora is the key to understanding the body’s cohesiveness. Earlier it was thought that genes would be the great health breakthrough, but the answer is of course much more complex than that,” says Henrik.
What does it take to acquire good intestinalflora?
“To de-dramatize the notion of diet. To obtain a healthy ecosystem it’s important to eat as varied a diet as possible, to eat the right thing, and not to forget to enjoy the meals. It’s also important not to think too rigidly. It’s okay to have a cinnamon bun every once in a while, but perhaps not constantly, and it’s good to eat a lot of greenery. Remember that a plus is a plus, that is to say, every good choices is a plus and if there’s the occasional negative one then the world won’t collapse.”
How do you know which diet is best for you?
“Colorful and spicy food is a good mark. It’s important to have a lot of different colors on the plate. The more colors you eat the more you cover all the good nutrients the body needs. One tip is to stock your fridge with legumes, onion plants, whole grains, cross-flowering plants such as different kinds of cabbage, broccoli, kale, and then some leafy vegetables. That will cover your fiber sufficiently. Then you can top that off with fruit, berries, seeds, nuts, and even mushrooms. At the same time, you can add as many colors as possible and lots of spice (preferably with herbs), but then the purpose is to add other kinds of bioactive nutrients than fiber.
Give us a tip for a good and healthy vegetable!
“I’ll probably choose beans. They contain an incredible amount of fiber, and that’s good for the intestine. Something I also think works well for kids are chickpeas, especially if you cook them with a dash of oil in a frying pan. Super tasty!”
Could our intestinal health affect our psyche?
“Absolutely, judging by the research of today the results are unambiguous. Diet and mental health are correlated. That is not to say that bad intestinal flora is the sole contributor to mental illness, but it is definitely a factor. About a third of those who suffer from mental illness could see an improvement if they changed their diet, which also comes without the medicinal drawbacks from prescription drugs. Although I understand that it could be difficult to cook good food when you are in a dark place. There is research that suggests that in many cases it would be cost-effective to attempt, for a limited amount of time, an intense nutritional overhaul in comparison to a long-term leave-of-absence and traditional nursing.”
What does intestinal flora actually consist of?
“The stomach consists of around one kilogram of bacteria and microorganisms that exist naturally within the intestinal tract. Among other things they affect our body weight, how we feel, and how energetic we are during our everyday life.”
If I want to change my intestinal flora, how long does it take for the intestinal tract to adjust?
“In the short term it takes just 12 to 18 hours for the intestinal tract to readjust and as early as that you will notice measurable changes. Right now there are studies looking at how we can develop a more stable intestinal flora in the long term, which is said to take about 3 to 12 months.”
And so ends the interview. We at Healthy Family note that it actually isn’t that difficult to achieve a healthy intestinal flora, and we will be sure to follow Henrik’s advice. “Eat colorful and varied good food. It works every time!
Henrik Ennart, scientific journalist within health, nutrition, and lifestyle.