Gut health refers to the balance of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. A healthy gut contains a diverse range of these microorganisms, which work together to digest food, absorb nutrients and eliminate waste. In contrast, an unhealthy gut has an imbalance of microorganisms, which can lead to a range of health problems.
India has a high occurrence of malnutrition. With its placement beyond 100 on the Global Hunger Index, the prevalence of nutritional deficiencies is alarmingly high. Consequently, malnutrition poses a significant risk to gut health, giving rise to various issues such as diarrhoea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). These diseases can lead to an imbalance in gut microorganisms, which can result in a host of health problems beyond the digestive system.
Research has shown that gut health is closely linked to the immune system, mental health and chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. In India, where these conditions are prevalent, improving gut health can be a crucial factor in preventing and managing these diseases.
One of the most effective ways to improve gut health is through diet. In India, a traditional diet rich in fibre, whole grains and plant-based foods can promote gut health by providing the necessary nutrients for healthy gut bacteria to thrive. Moreover, fermented foods such as butter-milk, curds and yoghourt which are a staple in Indian cuisine, can also promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
However, the modern Indian diet has shifted away from traditional foods towards processed and fast foods, which can negatively impact gut health. These foods are often high in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats, which can lead to an overgrowth of harmful gut bacteria and an imbalance in the gut microbiome.
Another factor that can affect gut health is stress. In India, where work-related stress and personal pressures are prevalent, chronic stress can lead to an imbalance in gut microorganisms and cause digestive problems such as IBS. Therefore, managing stress through practices such as yoga and meditation can improve gut health and overall health.