Gut health is the wellness movement that has been on the tip of everybody’s tongues for some time now, and with good reason too. Continuous research on the matter shows just how imperative it is to our overall wellbeing, with poor gut health being linked to a number of medical conditions and disorders. The good news is, it turns out that looking after your gut isn’t as hard as you might think. Here, we’ve collated 10 simple tips on how to keep your gut in check.
Kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut and other fermented foods have exploded onto our wellness radar as of late, and with good reason too. Fermented foods are rich in probiotics — the good type of bacteria that grows during the fermentation process — and have been proven to promote healthy weight loss, boost immunity and improve digestion. If the thought of fermented cabbage or black tea doesn’t rock your world then don’t worry, yoghurt, pickles and sourdough loaves all count as being ‘fermented’ too.
Surprisingly, exercise can change the whole composition of your gut microbiome, and it can take as little as six weeks of sweating it out to have a positive impact. Exercise has been proven to increase the gut microbes which assist in the production of fatty acids — which in turn reduce the risk of conditions such as inflammatory disease, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as obesity.
Probiotics line the stomach and help to promote nutrient absorption, in addition to supporting the immune system. If fermented foods aren’t your thing then perhaps it pays to hit up the supplement aisle, but be sure to speak to your GP beforehand — different types of probiotics have different impacts on gut health and it pays to figure out the best type for you.
With all this spouting about probiotics, it can be easy to forget the importance of the lesser heralded ‘biotic. Prebiotics are a non-digestible fibre found inside the gastrointestinal tract that stimulates the growth or activity of probiotics. (More prebiotics lead to more probiotics, which, in turn, equals a healthier, happier gut!) Prebiotics can be found in everything from garlic and leeks to asparagus and banana, and can also be bought in supplement form.
Eat more vegetables
It won’t come as much surprise that we need to be eating vegetables in order to stay healthy. By switching up your diet with a heavier vegetable intake you can cultivate a new collection of gut microbes in just 24 hours. Jerusalem artichokes (a root vegetable FYI, not a type of artichoke, and not from Jerusalem either…) are the poster vegetable for optimum gut health due to its incredibly high prebiotic and fibre content.
Speaking of, an added amount of fibre can provide a wide variety of compounds and nutrients that help improve gut health, and has been proven to protect against bowel disorders and heart disease. Aim to increase your overall fibre content, especially if your intake of fruit and vegetables is low, with wholewheat kinds of pasta, bread, oats and cereals alongside barley and rye.
Reduce alcohol intake
Nobody likes a party-pooper, but it’s important to mention alcohol’s contribution to negative gut health. Drinking can lead to dysbiosis, which is an imbalance in the gut microbiota, as well as the decreasing of the secretion of digestive enzymes from the pancreas — enzymes which we need to break down nutrients in order for our body to absorb and benefit from them. We’re not saying to stop drinking altogether, just to reduce your alcohol intake and remember to drink more water.
Eat less junk food
Sorry to be the one to tell you, but your gut doesn’t enjoy 2am kebabs and McDonald’s breakfasts. Processed, fatty, sugary foods makes gut bacteria suffer, and a junk-food diet can lead to the mass extinction of the good bacteria we need in order for our bodies to function properly.
Eat whole grains
Looking for a way to fill your diet now all those quarter pounders and bags of Doritos are off limits? Apart from a larger intake of vegetables, whole grains are another worthy addition as they are experts at feeding the bodily bacteria balance. Maize is a high contender when in its high-quality, non-GMO form it can provide fibre, B vitamins and up to 10 times more Vitamin A than other grains. Whole grain oats help to regulate cholesterol and blood pressure levels while Buckwheat can provide many benefits to your digestive health and overall well-being thanks to its high levels of magnesium and fibre.
Control stress levels
Stress’ effect on the body is something that we’re only just starting to take note of, and it turns out it can affect the body in more ways than one. The burden of too much recurrent stress directly affects your microbiome, weakening your gut’s intestinal lining against dangerous invaders and subsequently making you more susceptible to illness, nutritional deficiencies and exhaustion. Try to invest in some more quality, plentiful sleep and take up meditation, it works wonders.