The digestive tract is a complex, diverse system that holds the capacity to drastically influence our daily health and wellbeing. Taking care of your gut health simply means supporting the trillions of bacterial cells that occupy it. You want to make sure the tenants are going to look after the place, rather than trash the living hell out of it. You want to ensure the ratio of good to bad bacteria is falling toward a positive balance. Some factors that can throw off this delicate scale include water contamination, environmental conditions, gastrointestinal distress, nutritional deficiencies, stress and specific medications.
Improving and actively taking care of your gut bacteria can offer an extremely diverse range of health benefits to leave you feeling energised and ready to take on the world. Not only can good gut bacteria provide you with an overall sense of wellbeing, but it can also help with your immunity, influence biochemical reactions, enhance digestion and absorption of nutrients, protect the lining of the gut, fight off harmful bacteria and even influence your mental health.
So how can we make sure our gut flora remains in this positive balance so we can reap these health rewards? Here are a few simple habits to adopt in your day-to-day routine to support your gut bacteria and digestive health. These recommendations are for average individuals with no additional requirements or health conditions. Those with any specific needs should speak to a dietitian before making any adjustments to their diet.
Diversify Your Diet
Pack your diet with an abundance of healthy foods to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients that your gut needs to thrive. This includes fruit, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, seeds, eggs, etc. This can reduce your intake of nutrient-poor foods and leave you feeling fuller for longer, overall helping with weight management, which can be a major cause of poor gut health.
Another simple tip that can simultaneously improve your quality of life while avoiding constipation; regular fitness can help keep everything ‘on track’ in your digestive system. Also, as previously mentioned, weight management can help support and nourish gut health.
Up Your Fibre Intake
An integral part of any diet, fibre helps to make stools bulkier while also assisting with movement throughout the colon. Ultimately, this can help avoid constipation.
As well as treating various digestive conditions, fibre can also help with weight management. Good sources of fibre include fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds and many breakfast cereals.
Avoid Foods High In Bad Fats
And yet another contributor to constipation; a diet full of bad fats can be a major factor towards a sluggish and poor digestive system. Although unsaturated fats are crucial when it comes to a healthy lifestyle, pairing this intake with fibre can assist the digestive system with breaking down and passing the food. As poor quality sources of protein also have high amounts of saturated and trans fats, try to consume leaner proteins such as chicken, fish, beans, lentils, and eggs.
Try Introducing Small Amounts Of Resistance Starch
As it’s important to feed our good bacteria to ensure its abundance, incorporating small amounts of resistance starch into our diet can prove to be useful. Although resistance starch cannot be digested by the body, this form of fibre can promote gut health by providing energy and supporting the health of cells in the small and large intestine. Foods high in resistance starch include bananas, lentils, beans, whole grain products and potatoes. It’s recommended to include 20g of resistance starch in your diet per day.
Take Advantage Of Probiotic Foods
Eating foods with good bacteria can be very effective when it comes to improving the ratio of good to bad bacteria in your gut. Probiotics can help keep your gut at an optimal health by combatting the consequences of a poor diet and stress, and can also boost your immune system and assist with IBS symptoms. Some probiotic-containing foods to incorporate into your daily diet include yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut. Probiotic supplements of various strengths are also available at pharmacies.
Staying hydrated is a crucial yet simple element when it comes to gut health. Fibre draws water into the colon to create softer stools. This helps the stools to pass with ease. Although there are many different opinions when it comes to how much water you should be drinking per day, try to aim for around eight glasses.
Reduce Your Intake Of Gut Harming Substances
Where necessary, it’s important you reduce your intake of gut-harming substances. This can avoid the bacteria balance from shifting out of your favour, leaving you with all the wellbeing rewards that you’ve earnt. Some substances to limit include antibiotics (unless otherwise stated by a doctor), processed foods, chlorinated water, and pesticides.
Experiencing Serious Gastro-Uncomfort? Maybe The FODMAP Diet Is Your Solution
FODMAP is an abbreviation for a bunch of molecules (with really long names) that are found in the food we eat. As some individuals find it specifically hard to absorb these molecules in the small intestine, FODMAPs can make their way into the large intestine where they can wreak havoc and cause a variety of symptoms that are associated with IBS.
A low FODMAP diet is essentially limiting the intake of FODMAPs through two phases. Phase one involves eliminating all high FODMAP foods from the diet for over four weeks while phase two involves gradually reintroducing these foods to establish the degree of which individuals can tolerate FODMAPs. From here, a long-term diet can be established.
Interested in giving the Low FODMAP diet a go? Speak to your dietitian for more information before commencing as the diet often has different effects between individuals.