Polyphenols and our gut
More and more studies are confirming the importance of the gut microbiota in our health, including mental health. Gut bacteria not only help us to maximise the absorption of nutrients and energy, but also are essential in the healthy body status.
Polyphenols are naturally-occurring compounds found in plants. They are commonly found in fruits, vegetables, coffee, tea and wine.
Once consumed, only 5 to 10% of polyphenols are absorbed directly into the small intestine, the remainder make their way to the colon to be broken down by our gut bacteria into metabolites, which then exert their important physiological effects.
Research is now showing that the relationship between polyphenols and the gut microbiota is two way: that is, the polyphenols change the composition of the gut bacteria, and the gut bacteria are responsible for metabolising the polyphenols into their bioactive metabolites.
Polphenols have the following actions on our gut microbes:
- increase counts of good bacteria
- inhibit growth of pathogenic bacteria
- act as prebiotics on our gut - see our separate post on prebiotics
- reduce inflammation of the digestive tract
What foods can contain polyphenols?
Polphenol rich foods include fruits, vegetables, coffee, tea, wine.
However the foods with the highest polyphenol content include:
- kiwi fruit
- dark grapes with seeds
- bok choy
- green beans
- nuts with husk and seed
Eating a wide variety of polyphenol-rich foods on a regular basis, along with probiotics, prebiotics, and resistant starch will balance your microbiota and get you on your way to good gut health!