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Did you know that an unhappy gut can impact weight loss, mood and health? With the updated Slender Blend formula now including ingredients to improve digestive health, we spoke to industry expert, Bio-Kult’s Nutritional Therapist Hannah Braye for the low down.

What is “Bio-Kult”?
Bio-Kult is a range of award winning live bacteria supplements containing: A unique multi-strain formula with 14 strains of beneficial bacteria, to help maintain healthy digestive and immune function.

Why do you think gut health is so important?
Good gut health is the foundation of good health. Our digestive system and in particular our microbiome has such a knock on effect on all the other systems of the body. By addressing gut health, often many other non-digestive symptoms will also improve.

Why is the gut referred to as the “second brain”?
The gut is often referred to as the “second brain” due to the presence of the enteric nervous system (ENS), containing 500 million neurons, which resides in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. The ENS is intrinsically linked to the brain via the vagus nerve and due to this connection, research is showing that not only can our brain influence our digestive system, but our digestive health can significantly influence our brain and mood.

What is the difference between pro and pre-biotics?
Probiotics are essentially live beneficial bacteria, defined as "live micro-organisms” which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host". Prebiotics are a food source for probiotics and our resident gut bacteria, allowing them to grow and thrive in the gut.

Can you list three of the best ways to encourage a healthy gut flora?
- Prebiotic foods such as banana, Jerusalem artichoke, onions, leeks, asparagus, garlic, oats, apples and flaxseeds may help to increase numbers of beneficial strains within the gut.- Consuming traditionally fermented foods and drinks such as sauerkraut, kimchi, live yoghurt, kefir, miso and kombucha on a daily basis is also a great way to support microbial balance and have been shown in studies to confer a number of digestive and other health benefits.- Taking a supplement which supports gut health can also be really beneficial, especially when travelling, taking antibiotics or at times when our immune system is in need of additional support, such as in winter or during a stressful period.

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Why is a healthy gut so important in order to lead a healthy lifestyle?
Hippocrates once said “all disease starts in the gut”, and modern research is increasingly showing this to be true. It is becoming apparent that healthy digestive function, and in particular a healthy and diverse range of bacteria within the gut, is vital to help protect against a variety of health conditions. Good digestive function is important to help us eliminate toxins from the body, and our gut microbiome is intrinsically linked with our immune system - approximately 70% of our immune cells are located in the lining of the gut and are supported by our gut bacteria. Our immune system controls our inflammatory response and inflammation is often seen as a root cause and symptom of many diseases. Having a healthy gut also allows us to properly digest our food and the absorb nutrients we need to stay healthy.

Can an unhealthy gut cause or inflame food intolerances and/ or symptoms?
An unhealthy gut is often the root cause of many food intolerances. Our digestive tract is continuously exposed to the outside world and as such provides our first line of defence against harmful pathogens and substances. The cells lining the digestive tract therefore need to be tightly joined together to strictly control what can enter our blood stream. When the cells lining our digestive tract become damaged, from things such as inflammation, medications, stress, alcohol and poor diet, these tight junctions can become loose (known as “leaky gut”). This allows larger food proteins than normal to enter into the blood stream, triggering the immune system to mount an inflammatory response, leading to the symptoms of food intolerances. By improving gut health many people find that they are able to reintroduce foods which they have previously had to avoid. Reinstating a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut is vital, and numerous studies have shown the ability of live bacteria supplements to help reduce leaky gut.

Are there are common symptoms for an unhealthy gut?
Ideally we want to be having at least 1 bowel movement a day, and this should be easy to pass and well-formed. Diarrhoea and constipation are common signs that our gut is unhappy, and changes in gut microbial balance are often seen in sufferers. Bloating, cramping, flatulence, burping and urgency on needing to go to the toilet are also common signs that things aren’t as they should be.

The new and improved formula of the Slender Blend now contains digestive enzymes, probiotics, prebiotics and fibre to help improve gut health and aid digestion. For more information – click here.