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November 27, 2017

It was Hippocrates who said, “All disease begins in the gut.”

As the father of medicine, Hippocrates knew what he was talking about. But what did he really mean?

Quite simply, we’re only as healthy as our gut. If our digestive system is unhealthy, then it’s fairly likely other bodily systems will be suffering as well. And this is true often not just humans but our dog’s and cat’s, too!

Your gut and your health

Did you know that around 70 per cent of the human immune system is in the gut? That’s right – the lining of our gut is home to almost three-quarters of the cells that make up our immune system. Which makes it really important to keep the gut healthy! The gut is made up of about 100 trillion bacteria known as the gut microbiota. This vast network of organisms ise directly linked to many health conditions – both mental and physical.

Gut microbiota: Why we need it and how to keep it healthy

Intestinal flora plays a major role in digestive health for humans and animals alike. Certain strains of probiotics have been clinically proven to help promote good bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract which is needed for healthy digestion. The millions of species of bacteria in our gut are needed for: 
  • breaking down nutrients in the food we eat,
  • protecting us from invading pathogens,
  • producing certain fatty acids and vitamins, such as vitamin K.

Keeping all that bacteria in check is a matter of ensuring the environment is right. Bacteria in the gut is only as healthy as what it feeds on. Eating fresh, whole foods in their natural form will provide all the right nutrients needed for the ‘good’ gut microbiota to thrive. Eating processed foods that are high in fat and sugar will feed ‘bad’ gut microbiota instead, which can lead to poor digestion, gas, and inflammation of the sensitive intestinal lining.

Eating whole foods loaded with prebiotics and probiotics support good gut health

    Feeding the gut: The importance of prebiotics and probiotics

    Prebiotics: Prebiotics are ‘food’ for the good bacteria in your gut. They help maintain the health of your gastrointestinal flora by providing it with the nutrients it needs to grow. Foods containing prebiotics include soluble fibres, such as:

    • psyllium husk
    • pure honey
    • bananas (including green bananas)

    Probiotics: Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that live naturally in the digestive tract. They help the body to break down food, absorb nutrients, counteract bad gut bacteria and establish the ‘good’ bacteria needed for healthy digestion, immune support and overall wellbeing. Probiotic supplements are products or foods containing live bacteria that can boost the numbers of your own gastrointestinal bacteria. They can help to counteract bad gut bacteria and establish the ‘good’ bacteria needed for healthy digestion, immune support and overall wellbeing. The best probiotic supplements include guaranteed live bacteria and a variety of strains.

    Foods rich in good probiotic bacteria include those that have been fermented, such as:

    • keffir
    • kombucha
    • sauerkraut
    • kimchi
    • yogurt
    • miso
    • tempeh

    Can pets benefit from probiotics?

    Absolutely! Animals need good bacteria just as much as we do. Probiotics can help to:

    • inhibit the growth and spread of harmful bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Clostridium perfringens
    • treat and prevent diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and intestinal inflammation
    • prevent urinary tract infections
    • reduce allergies or intolerances by reducing intestinal permeability and controlling inflammation
    pets can benefit from prebiotics and probiotics

      Improving Your Furbaby’s Digestion

      Gas and bloating is a sign of bad bacteria in the gut, which causes food to ferment and give off gases. Fortunately, there are some simple tips to improve your dog or cat’s digestion.

      • As with humans, highly-processed pet foods are best avoided. The artificial additives in these products are not recognised as ‘food’ by the digestive tract, which can lead to poor digestion, fermentation and flatulence. The Honest Kitchen is a good example of a pet food brand that only uses real vegetables and meats. All their food products are dehydrated, which means no preservatives or additives – even humans can eat it! Just add water and serve. Many of their products also contain probiotics or digestive aids to improve gut health.
      • Avoid or limit foods containing fermentable fibres such as gums, carrageenan and pectins, as well as ‘gassy’ vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower or brussels sprouts.
      • Try feeding your dog or cat small, frequent meals instead of 1-2 large ones. This will allow for faster digestion and less strain on the gut.
      • Exercise is a great way to reduce flatulence – for humans and animals alike! A brisk walk helps to move gas and undigested food along the gastrointestinal tract.
      • In the case of serious gastrointestinal distress, activated charcoal is a natural solution for both pets and humans. Activated charcoal is a porous substance that binds to substances that cause gas or bloating in the intestine, allowing them to be excreted quickly and safely.

       The best foods for a healthy dog or cat

      • Look for treats that contain both fibre and prebiotics to keep your pet happy and healthy. For dogs, a great choice is K9PURPOSE bars, which are made with chia seeds to provide Omega 3s and fibre, whey for clean protein and blueberries for antioxidants. They’re also pretty popular!
      • For sensitive tummies, choose foods that contains a digestive aid. One good example is NuPath Digestion Pumpkin Puree Dog Supplement which is easy to digest and contains readily-absorbed nutrients. The soluble fibre helps to maintain a healthy digestive tract and dogs love the taste!
      • As with humans, ‘real’ food is always the best option. Where possible, avoid artificial ingredients and opt for products that are made with whole, fresh foods.

       Avoid highly processed food to keep your pet's digestive system happy.


      Bio: Katie Stone is a qualified naturopath and former journalist who now roams the world as a freelance writer. Having grown up on a dairy farm in New Zealand, Katie adores all animals – especially pigs! She is also passionate about natural healthcare for pets and believes good nutrition is as important for animals as it is for humans.

      *Bernard and Kitty's Waggy Tales articles are for information purposes only and are neither intended as, nor should be substituted for professional advice, or the treatment or diagnosis of any health conditions. Information that is provided in this blog is intended for general knowledge: consult your veterinarian if you have questions about caring for your animal, or about your animal’s health or condition.

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