Normally, the gut contains 70 to 80 per cent of our immune cells, however studies emphasize how closely linked gut health and the immune system are, and how out of balance the body is when fighting infection. According to Janvier Rusizana, a practitioner in internal medicine at La Nouvelle Clinic in Remera, the key to a healthy gut and overall health is to maintain a good balance of bacteria. He says that it’s ideal to understand that gut is the foundation of health, where the body gets rid of waste and toxins, and that for this reason, when the gut is unhealthy, the body will have issues and toxins will build up, which can have harmful and long-term effects on one’s overall health. Some of the health issues that can be brought about by an unhealthy gut include chronic fatigue, chronic illnesses and inflammation among others. The symptoms could range from poor concentration, headaches, fatigue to trouble sleeping. Keeping your gut healthy Rusizana says the most common factors that contribute to poor gut health are stress, poor nutrition and long-term use of antibiotics and antacids. However, he is quick to note that making lifestyle changes can contribute a lot when it comes to ensuring a healthy gut. Dr. Charles Sindabimenya, a specialist in internal medicine at Doctors Plaza in Kimironko, says when you want to ensure a healthy heart, the first thing that should cross your mind is maintaining a healthy diet. This, he says will help improve gut health, for instance, he mentions that consuming lots of fresh fruits and vegetables should be your priority as this plays a big role when it comes to gut health. “These are the best sources of nutrients for a healthy gut microbiome, and good nutrition is the easiest way to influence the gut microbiome,” he says. Private Kamanzi, a nutritionist says that adding fiber rich food to your diet is also important. This could be broccoli, bananas, and green peas. He says that studies also show that the body can prevent the growth of disease-causing bacteria when you eat a diet rich in fruit and vegetables. According to Kamanzi, consuming foods that naturally contain prebiotics is important as it helps promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Prebiotic foods can include onion, ginger and garlic, black pepper, cinnamon among others. Sindabimenya says staying hydrated is also important as water has several health benefits including supporting skin health and helps with brain function. “Water intake has long been known for influencing your gut microbiome. For this, when one drinks enough water, the gut will absorb important nutrients like electrolytes and vitamins, helping to keep a healthy gut all the time,” he adds. On the other hand, Rusizana notes that keeping stress at bay is also important as stress has been linked to negatively impact gut health. This however, he says can be solved by knowing how to manage stress better so that it does not affect your overall health is important. One way of doing this, he says, is managing stress by practicing mindfulness, eating healthy, getting enough sleep and doing light exercise. Studies have also shown that consuming probiotics is important as they are known to restore the gut microbiome to a healthy state. Probiotics can be found in fermented foods like yoghurt.