Tips for Improving Gut Health
Your gut is so important, affecting many aspects of health and affecting the whole body. It is now widely recognised that gut health is a contributing factor to developing and maintaining a strong immune system, as over half of your immune system is housed in your GI tract. Your digestive system and gut microbiome (microorganisms living in the intestines) can impact on your brain, skin, weight, hormones and even the ability to absorb nutrients. Keeping your digestive health on track is one of the best ways as we age to reduce the potential risk of developing serious illnesses.
Many features of modern day life can damage our gut microbiome, these include high stress levels, poor sleep, eating processed food and taking antibiotics. These things can contribute to an unhealthy gut, and manifest themselves as symptoms. Typical signs can include; gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, heartburn, sugar cravings, unexpected weight changes, insomnia, fatigue, skin irritation and food intolerances.
So what are the best ways to improve your gut health?
1) Manage your stress levels – adopting relaxation methods such as yoga, meditation or mindfulness, as well as pursuing hobbies and spending time with family, friends and pets are all ways you can reduce stress and anxiety which can impact gut health.
2) Chew food thoroughly – Eating more slowly can reduce digestive discomfort by easing processes – it can better promote a feeling of fullness to prevent overeating, and assists improved absorption of nutrients. Eating smaller more frequent meals can help to avoid overwhelming the GI tract.
3) Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of water. The recommended 6 – 8 glasses per day is what you should be aiming for. Also try to reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake as they are both stimulants which can be disruptive to digestive processes.
4) Try to get enough quality sleep – Prioritise getting as getting close to the recommended 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep as you can. This allows your body time to repair and recover and can reduce stress which has positive impacts on gut health. Avoid eating late at night, having to digest a large meal just before bed can delay you falling asleep and reduce your sleep quality. There is a lot of free advice online or you can speak with the doctor if you have trouble sleeping.
5) Take prebiotics or probiotics - Prebiotics help to feed and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria already present in our gut, improving the balance of intestinal flora for gut health. Prebiotics can be found in foods such as leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus, bananas and chicory. Inulin is one of the best researched prebiotic fibre ingredients worldwide to support digestive health. Orafti® Inulin is extracted from chicory root, making it of 100% vegetable origin.
Probiotics are live microorganisms, often referred to as friendly bacteria; they can especially promote good digestive health because if bad bacteria are allowed to multiply and the ratio of good bacteria to bad is lowered then digestive problems can arise. Probiotics increase the amount of good bacteria in your gut. Yogurt, kefir or sauerkraut are all good sources. There are also supplements available such as acidophilus. Lactobacillus Acidophilus is one of the main residents found in your gut. Hellenia Acidophilus capsules also contain 5 other friendly bacteria, as well as FOS to help increase the good bacteria in the colon.
6) Check your eating habits – Reducing the amount of highly processed, high-sugar and high-fat foods you have in your daily diet can contribute to better gut health. Add plenty of fresh plant-based foods; fruits and vegetables and wholegrains to your diet, as well as high quality lean protein. Getting enough fibre in your diet is also important to contribute to a healthy digestive system. Current government guidelines say our dietary fibre intake should be 30g per day. Most adults are only eating an average of 18g per day. If you struggle to get enough fibre into your diet everyday then trying a supplement such as Psyllium Husk could be a could idea. Psyllium is a type of soluble fibre. You can add to your diet occasionally to ease constipation, or add routinely into your diet to promote regularity and overall digestive health.
7) Exercise – Even slow paced, low-impact physical activity such as walking keeps your colon moving, leading to more regular bowel movements, and can also help to manage irritable bowel symptoms.
8) Check for food intolerances – Symptoms such as cramping, bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, acid reflux and rashes, could indicate you are suffering from a food intolerance. You can try to eliminate common trigger foods to see if symptoms improve – e.g. wheat, dairy. This may identify a food or foods contributing to symptoms which will allow you to change eating habits and potentially see a positive change in your digestive health. You should do this safely with guidance from a health care professional or nutritionist if you can.
Many people find that certain supplements can help to calm digestive inflammation, discomfort and IBS like symptoms. Amongst those to try are peppermint capsules, turmeric powder with black pepper and matcha and turmeric+ capsules.
The importance of looking after your gut, and its impact on wider health aspects should not be underestimated. It is always a good idea to discuss with a doctor or health care professional any symptoms that you may have relating to your digestive health.
To browse supplements related to digestion and protecting your digestive tract click here