Gut and bowel health are becoming increasingly popular, and for good reason! But what exactly does it mean to maintain and improve your gut health? It’s much easier than you probably think and our quick and easy guide on how to take care of your tum will have you improving your gut health naturally in no time.
Traditionally, gut health refers to your body’s ability to efficiently digest food, absorb nutrients and excrete waste. And we all know what it feels like when one or more of these processes isn’t working optimally. Bloating, reflux, diarrhoea, constipation, all the fun stuff.
Newer research, however, has shown that there is a fourth important contributing factor: the microbiome. Much like the others, this area also needs to function well for us to remain healthy. Your microbiome is the collection of microorganisms that live on and in your body. We each carry around 38 trillion of them, a large proportion of which lives in the gut and, more specifically, in the intestines.
These microorganisms include pathogens and viruses, but they also include bacteria. Approximately 500 types of bacteria weighing up to 4 kg have been identified in the human gut. While some of these bacteria are bad, the majority of them are good and make important contributions to our health.
Research continues to produce a large amount of evidence that suggests there is a strong link between our gut health and various health outcomes, like immune function, mental health, hormone balance and skin health. This means that having good gut health makes us less likely to develop autoimmune diseases, mental illnesses, unwanted weight change, acne and even some cancers.
So, how do you improve your gut health the natural way? Great news! There are just a few simple and easy strategies you can improve the balance of your gut bacteria and your overall gut health.
Vegetables, fruit, wholegrains and legumes are rich in fibre, which helps to move food through the digestive tract more smoothly. They also contain prebiotics, which can feed certain strains of good bacteria. If there was ever a gut-health diet, this would be it!
2. Try more fermented foods
These could include yoghourt, kefir, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut and kimchi, which are all fantastic natural sources of probiotics. You can also buy probiotics as a supplement from your local pharmacy or health-food store. If you go this route, choose a broad-spectrum probiotic to increase the balance and variety of healthy gut bacteria.
3. Get your polyphenols in
Chocolate lovers rejoice! Polyphenols are found in dark choccie, green tea, olive oil and red wine. They all promote good gut health by travelling to the colon where they act as food for the good bacteria, while also protecting us against the growth of unwanted pathogens.
4. Eat less processed food
Deli meats, cake, biscuits and chips are some of the most likely candidates to contain preservatives, emulsifiers and artificial sweeteners. These contribute to inflammation in the digestive system and have been linked to certain cancers, including stomach and colon cancer.
5. Limit alcohol production
While some kinds of alcohol in small amounts may have some health benefits, excessive consumption has been shown to harm gut health by causing inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract. Alcohol can also delay the digestion process and contribute to the growth of bad bacteria.
6. Slow down
Taking the time to slow down and chew your food properly is a the most simple and one of the most effective aspects of good digestion. This can help ensure that you extract as many of the nutrients as possible from the food you’re eating. This also reduces symptoms such as diarrhoea or constipation. Stress has also been shown to cause an imbalance to gut bacteria. So slow down, turn the TV off, set your phone aside and don’t have serious conversations while you’re eating.
If you’re serious about improving or healing your gut, me and a bunch of my lovely colleagues over at Verde Nutrition Co are passionate about gut health. Click here to book your consultation with one of us today.