As Hippocrates said, ‘All Disease begins in the Gut’.
Our gut really is the epicentre of our health and we truly need to nurture it to reap the optimal health benefits. As well as diet, there are a few other not so obvious things we can be doing to improve our gut health. Here are my top 5 tips to maintain a healthy gut, mind and body:
| Author: Fiona Dennis is a functional nutrition student studying with the Functional Nutrition Academy, working her way towards becoming a health coach to support and guide others in their journey to understanding and implementing good gut health practices. Fiona has spent the last two years, researching, learning and implementing processes to support and heal her own gut and autoimmune health, and is passionate about taking her experience and sharing her knowledge with others struggling put together the pieces of their health puzzle.
Get enough Fibre and Eat Real Food - We needREAL FOOD to feed our gut microbiome and fibre is an absolutely must to keep our gut healthy. There are two types of fibre: dietary and soluble. Soluble fibre slows down digestion which slows the rate of food being emptied by your stomach making you feel fuller for longer. You can find it in flaxseed, nuts, beans, peas and berries. Insoluble fibre speeds up our digestion and adds bulk to our stools. This type of fibre is found in foods like brown rice, broccoli, cucumber, carrots, green beans and zucchini. Adding fermented foods into your diet also feeds those good gut bugs and helps crowd out the bad guys. Ferments are an awesome way to get a daily dose of beneficial probiotic bacteria and to improve digestion, help fight allergies and crowd out those harmful microbes. Eating foods like kim-chi, homemade coconut yoghurt and kefir, are amazing ways to boost your gut health.
Cut out the Processed Foods - I recently spoke with a gastroenterologist specialising in the microbiome who was ecstatic to discover that I didn’t eat processed foods. His two tips to me to maintain a healthy gut, was to cut out all processed food and eat as much fibre as possible. It’s so convenient to grab ready-made foods off the supermarket shelf because we are busy, but what most people are not aware of is that we are ingesting a myriad of additives, preservatives, refined sugars and other chemical laden ‘frankenfoods’ which our bodies do not recognise. When we are born naturally we inherit our mother’s gut microbiome, just as she inherits hers from her mother and so on. Our ancestral gut is used to receiving whole foods, but in this day and age it’s having to work hard to process foods that have been created in a factory with very little nutrients and a bucket load of manufactured additives. Don’t be fooled by ‘healthy’ packaging labels. Always check the ingredients and if you don’t recognise an ingredient as food, then don’t eat it!
Lower Stress - Stress is a major contributor to impaired gut health. Have you ever felt worried about a presentation you’re about to give and feel like you need to run to the bathroom? We’ve all been there, but have we ever stopped to ask why? When we are nervous or worried, we feel it in our gut. As we are well aware anxiety and depression are on the rise and seem to be more prevalent than ever before. The effect of stress on our gastrointestinal tract is huge. It effects our blood flow, how often we go to the bathroom, and other functions and sensations in our body. It also changes our microbiota and causes the lining of our gut to become permeable (ie. leaky gut). Incredibly our brain connects with the gut through our nervous systems, glands and adrenals and other networks which we call the ‘gut-brain axis’. Nowadays, you’ll often hear the gut being referred to as our ‘second brain’. So, we can now see how a stressed gut could be a catalyst for a stressed mind.
Get out into Nature - Do you notice that you often feel calmer and more relaxed when you’re at the beach or hiking through a conservation park? Nature is a natural healer and it’s cleverer than you think. Being around different types of bacteria (like sea water, sand or a grassy forest floor) gives you exposure to all sorts of microbes that can benefit your gut microbiome. So, where you can, get outside and get your feet on to the earth. This act of connecting with the earth is called grounding or earthing. When you walk barefoot on the ground you receive the benefits of the earth’s natural electrical charges through your feet which has been shown to improve sleep, reduce inflammation and promote a healthy gut microbiome.
Soak up the Sunshine - And while you’re connecting with the earth, soak up the benefits of the sun’s rays. Heading outside anytime from sunrise until around 10 am and getting direct sunlight on your eyes (without sunglasses), skin and directly onto your belly increases your serotonin (our happy hormone). Did you know that 90% of serotonin is produced in our gut! So, if our gut isn’t happy, neither is our brain. Serotonin regulates our sleep, memory and mood, so by caring for your gut, you’ll think clearer, sleep better and feel happier.
So, there you have it, 5 tips to improve your gut health naturally. Making all or any of these changes might just be the key to achieving better gastrointestinal and overall health.
Lastly, knowing what is going on inside your gut can also be pivotal in achieving optimal health. If implemented diet or lifestyle changes aren’t helping you kick those health goals, then it might be time to dive deeper and take steps to have an analysis done of your microbiome to identify if there are any unwelcome pathogens or overgrowths taking up residence.
Many of us suffer with bloating or ‘funny tummies’ and just live with it. Although these complaints may be common, they’re definitely not normal. Don’t guess what might be going on when you can get a simple test from your doctor to help resolve any issues. Remember, if we have an imbalance in our gut, then we will have imbalances in our health.