So, we know that gut health is important for a whole host of reasons - from your skin, digestive wellbeing, and energy, to the function of the immune system. The only problem is, how do we know if it’s healthy?
Having a healthy gut means rarely suffering from gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, or diarrhoea.1 If you have any of these, your gut health may need some attention!
What is the Gut?
The gut runs all the way from the mouth to the anus, and is made up of what are referred to as “hollow organs” and “solid organs”.
The hollow organs are the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus. The solid ones are the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. All of these working together to digest what is put into your body is called the gastrointestinal tract.2
When we talk about gut health, we are normally talking about the gut microbiome. Due to extensive research in the medical field, we now know that healthy gut flora is mostly responsible for our overall health.3
A normal human gut microbiota is made up of trillions of good and bad bacteria, with over 100 trillion of just the good kind. Each person has a unique microbiome, just like we all have unique fingerprints.4
When the gut is balanced, it functions well and benefits our overall health. When it’s not balanced, it has been linked to diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome or disease, metabolic diseases like obesity and diabetes, and allergic diseases such as atopic dermatitis or asthma.
What Causes an Imbalanced Gut?
There can be many different factors that cause an imbalance in the gut microbiome, but the biggest cause is poor diet. Good bacteria thrive on fiber and plant foods, so these ingredients can massively contribute to a healthy gut microbiome.
Bad bacteria and yeast thrive on processed foods and sugar. If you are feeding the bad bacteria more than the good bacteria, the bad bacteria can flourish and overpower the good.
Other factors that can impact the balance of the gut microbiome are stress, food sensitivities or allergies, alcohol, sleep deprivation, and frequent antibiotic use4.
If you are looking to reset your gut and allow your microbiome to thrive, keep reading to find out the best strategies for doing so!
1) Boost your fiber intake
Fiber is a vital part of our diets that essentially helps us to pass normal, healthy poo.
It increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it, making it easier to pass, thus reducing the risk of constipation. Fiber solidifies our poo as it allows it to absorb water and makes it bulkier, which reduces the risk of diarrhoea.5
For adults, the Institute for Medicine recommends an intake of 25 grams of fiber per day for women and 38 grams per day for men.5
High-fiber breakfast cereals can be a great way to include more fiber in your diet. A 2-biscuit serving of Weetabix contains 3.9 grams of fiber, a 52 gram serving of Shredded Wheat contains 6 grams of fiber, and a 64 gram serving of porridge oats contains 9 grams of fiber.6
If you’re a bigger fan of toast in the mornings, switching out the bread for wholemeal can also boost your daily fiber intake. Per 100g, wholemeal bread contains 7 grams of fiber, while white bread only has.7
Potatoes, beans, lentils, brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta are also great sources of fiber. Including these ingredients in your cooking allows for an easy way to ingest more fiber.
Additionally, increasing your fruit and vegetable intake would also help increase fiber, as well as a multitude of vitamins and minerals.
2) Eat more fruit and veg
Many fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, which promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut; specifically, Bifidobacteria.8 Of course, fruit and veg aren't only beneficial in terms of fiber.
They also contain flavonoids and various other antioxidant compounds, which interact with the gut microbes and help to balance the gut microbiota which reduces inflammation. Consuming flavonoids can help reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and other metabolic diseases.9
Adding a banana, raspberries or strawberries to your breakfast cereal can be a great start to introducing more fruits into your diet whilst upping your fiber intake.
Adding a wider variety of vegetables to a dinner such as broccoli, cauliflower, green beans or spinach can add in all those nutrients your plate is lacking. How about snacking on carrots, mange tout or celery with hummus instead of a non-nutritious snack?
3) Drink more water!
Water is what keeps us alive. It is SO fundamental to our overall health, and our gut just doesn’t function properly when we are dehydrated. Water helps our guts to digest, and slow digestion can lead to constipation.
The NHS suggests we drink 6-8 glasses of fluid per day. This doesn’t include sugary drinks but does include tea, coffee, non-sugary drinks and low-fat milk.10
Most of us take being thirsty as a sign to drink water, but actually, feeling thirsty is a sign that our body is already dehydrated. Dehydration can cause headaches, kidney stones, low energy levels, confusion and weakness.11
Our bodies send a signal to the brain to tell us we’re thirsty, and as we age, the body gets less good at doing this. This is why the older people you know are probably less likely to reach for a drink without encouragement. Getting your body used to drinking water consistently rather than when thirsty can help you to maintain that habit as you age.
4) Slow it down
Our stomach sends a signal to the brain when it is full. This doesn’t happen straight away, and our brains need time to process the feeling of fullness; approximately 20 minutes.12
If we eat too fast, we may eat more food than we need. This can lead to weight gain which increases the risk of diseases like heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.13
Eating food too quickly can be a common cause of gut issues such as indigestion, excessive gas and bloating.1 This is because the digestive system needs time to process the food - using the good bits and eliminating the bad.
By focusing on chewing your food properly and slowing down the process, you can help your digestive system to function properly.
5) Consume probiotics
Probiotics are live microorganisms that help to balance our gut microbiome. They add good bacteria to our gastrointestinal tract that ensures our gut is functioning well, and as we know, good bacteria is key to a healthy gut.
You can gain probiotics through fermented food sources such as yoghurt, sauerkraut, pickles, tempeh and kimchi. Some cheeses such as cheddar and mozzarella also contain probiotics.
If these foods don’t tickle your pickle (excuse the pun) then taking a probiotic daily supplement can be incredibly beneficial for your gut health.
The Gut Co has created a range of products containing strains of live bacteria (probiotics) that help balance the microbiome.
Their signature product “Gut Care” includes a variety of clinically-tested ingredients including prebiotic fiber, yeast and live probiotics that nourish, diversify and rebalance the microbiome.
This product can reduce bloating, reduce diarrhoea and constipation and reduce excess gas by repopulating the good gut bacteria.
6) Move more
Going for a walk after a meal for as little as 10 minutes can positively impact your gut digestive function. Physical activity increases blood flow to the muscles in the digestive system, which helps to move the food along.
Exercise balances the gut by preventing the growth of bad bacteria and encouraging the body to make use of the good stuff by absorbing the nutrients in it.14
Our bodies are with us for life, literally. It’s important to treat them right to have the best quality of life you can. Why wouldn’t we avoid avoidable problems? When you see it like that, it’s a no-brainer.
Looking after our bodies starts with loving our gut, and trying these 6 tips will help your gut love you right back.