Gut health is the latest buzzword, and rightly so. It’s an exciting time for nutrition and healthcare because it’s something that you have the power to change and improve.
Anyone who knows or has worked with me will know already that I am a gut health enthusiast. Gut health is an integral gateway to the health of our bodies overall, and many diseases actually begin in the gut. And the best thing about it all? YOU have the power to change and influence what’s going on in your gut…
Join the gut loving movement
Here is a little introduction to the basics of gut health:
What is the microbiome?
The microbiome is the collection of bacteria that lives inside of us which have their own genetic material. It is now known that the gut is home to thousands of species of microbes. Almost all of them are bacteria. These bugs – collectively known as the gut microbiota – far outnumber the number of human cells (by 10:1!!) in your body and fulfill many metabolic functions that help you stay healthy and energised. We are only 10% human. The rest is bacteria
…Why we should all give a S*** (literally!)
Protect: they know the difference between harmful pathogens and the non-harmful holiday makers just passing through your intestines
Communicate: These guys are far more agile than our human cells, they can reshape and adapt to their environment. They can actually swap genes and bits of DNA amongst themselves.
Dominate: They affect pretty much everything! From hormone production, breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, making vitamins, regulating appetite, production of neurotransmitters and directly communicate with neurons and our stress response.
…Unlike our genes, we have the power to influence and change our microbes!
And this can be done largely through diet! Research is constantly emerging which is so exciting – but it is important to remember that as it is such a new world of study, quantifying this area is still an ongoing process. We know the links, we know what helps our microbes and what doesn’t and we are beginning to understand the impact that specific strains of microbes have systemically and in the future there will be a better understanding of how to use specific strains to directly treat conditions and symptoms. However, different strains will have different impacts of different people. This is why it’s important to remember that there is no ‘one size fits all’ probiotic and if you read somewhere that there is, then it’s probably a hugely exaggerated claim! Scientists are treating the microbiome as an entire organ in its own right. So join us and the journey in welcoming your new organ!
So what can you do?
- Increase fibre intake and diversity : It feeds microbes, think of it as the fertilizer for your gut bugs. The more diversity of plant based fibre, the happier your microbes. Focus on a Mediterranean diet and aim for over 35g fibre daily.
- Listen to your gut : if foods make you bloated or uncomfortable, work out what they are and avoid them – your body is constantly signaling to you if something isn’t quite right, especially in the gut, so listen and respond
- Keep the gut love going, even on a decadent holiday or weekend away : studies are now finding that as little as 3 days without fibre can starve the microbiome. Reducing diversity will reduce the influence they have on overall health. So take oats with you or make sure you order a side salad with your burger – it’s not always about restriction and enjoying what you love is important too, but remember the little guys go everywhere you do, and it’s their holiday too!
- Get close and personal with your poo : what colour is it, does it sink or float, how does it smell, how regular are you, what is the consistency? All of this indicates what’s going on in your gut. If you’re not going daily, if it’s hard and uncomfortable – think about what you’re eating, try new things and seek the guidance of a Nutritional Therapist. (*Go to your GP if ever you notice blood or mucus).
- Embrace the fermented foods : Kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, miso, kombucha, natural yogurt (unsweetened) are all great for your gut and digestion and making your own it fun and easy. Aim for 1 portion per day. (Seek advice from nutrition professional if you have a bad reaction to fermented foods).
- An apple a day really can keep the dr. away : Apples contain lots of soluble fibre (called pectin) this makes them an excellent food choice for diarrhea or constipation because the pectin absorbs water in the gastrointestinal tract + swells up, providing bulk and normal movement.
- Time restrict your daily eating routine : Giving your gut proper time to relax and digest without adding more food can significantly improve weight loss, cholesterol, brain function and even cancer prevention. Aim to eat all meals between a 10-12 hr window.
- Avoid: processed foods, artificial sweeteners and colouring, stabilizers, over-cleaning/sterilization, mouthwash. All have been proven to damage the microbiome.
Everyone has a different bacteria eco system. It can take time to work out which eating habits will best suit you and in some cases people will need a further period of investigation. Where there is IBS like symptoms, it can take some time and getting guidance from a Nutritional Therapist can be really helpful. I keep things simple with my clients, guiding them through manageable and enjoyable diet and life style changes.
Contact me to find out more.