5 Ways to have a Happy, Healthy Gut!

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are essentially food for our gut bacteria. They are found in plant fibres and are not fully digested by the body. This means they stay in the digestive tract and reach the large colon, or bowel, and act as a source of food for the healthy bacteria that lives there.


There is sound scientific evidence for the benefits of prebiotics including improving blood-sugar control, helping keep the gut microbiome healthy, appetite regulation, helping calcium absorption therefore supporting bone health and some emerging trials suggesting they can help optimise immunity.

Prebiotics are a type of dietary fibre and are widely found in our diets. However, to gain prebiotic status the food has to demonstrate its health benefits via scientific studies - not all fibres are prebiotics.

Examples of foods containing prebiotics include fruits such as apples, stone fruit, watermelon; vegetables such as onions, leeks, garlic, asparagus, beetroot; grains like spelt, rye, barley; some nuts e.g., almonds, cashews, hazelnuts and legumes & pulses e.g., chickpeas, black beans.


Variety of Plant Foods

The American Gut Health Study looked at stool samples from the US, UK and Australia, concluding that people who ate 30+ different plant-based products per week had a more diverse microbiome than those who ate 10 or less. Those who ate more than 30 different plant-based products also had less antibiotic resistant genes.

SO WHAT COUNTS TOWARDS YOUR 30?
Fruit (e.g., apples, pears, grapes)
Veggies (e.g., asparagus, broccoli, carrots)
Wholegrains (e.g., brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat)
Nuts and seeds (e.g., almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds)
Beans and pulses (e.g., chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans)
Herbs and spices (e.g., basil, cumin, turmeric, parsley. Note that each counts ¼ point when adding up to your 30)

You could choose 30 different vegetables to include each week, but this would not be as beneficial as choosing a variety of the above types of plant-based products. Different fibres have different properties and so to benefit from each of these, you need a good ratio.

Each day aim for the following:
5-7 portions of veggies/salad
2-3 portions of fruit
3 portions of wholegrains
1-2 portions of nuts/seeds/legumes
A variety of herbs and spices


Probiotics

The tiny little organisms we call gut bacteria reside in our gut. They have many, many physiological functions, even if they are tiny! Probiotics are specific strains of good bacteria that provide a health benefit when consumed in adequate amounts. But not all the gut bugs word the same; the health benefits depend on the strain! You can find probiotics in yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir, miso, tempeh and small traces in kombucha.


Stress Management

We know that there is a constant two-way communication between our gut and our brain called the gut-brain axis and so stress can have a direct impact on our gut. For some people that can trigger diarrhoea or difficulty going to the bathroom. We also know there is growing evidence to support a role for our gut health in managing and even preventing mental health problems. So, it’s really a two-way street.

IT’s extremely important for your gut health to manage your stress levels. We understand that stress is a day to day feeling but it is also something that us as human can consciously manage. Find a time each day to do absolutely nothing for 10 minutes, focus on breathing and relaxing. Mindfulness apps like Headspace and Calm, and a little yoga every day could be helpful too.

Happy gut bugs, will hopefully lead to a happy you!


Minimise processed sugars, saturated fats and alcohol

Processed sugar, saturated fats and alcohol consumption can all cause inflammation in the gut and significantly change the bacteria species variety in your gut changing the ratio to higher numbers of bad bacteria rather than good bacteria. This can link to a number of chronic diseases. Too much alcohol consumption can result in the wall of your gut lining becoming more 'permeable'. This means that whole food particles may cross the gut lining and enter your bloodstream, which you don't want!