Today’s blog is a general guide to support gut health. However, we are individual and what works for one doesn’t always work for another. If you have severe gut issues or certain intolerances, this information may not be suitable to you.
So with that said, prepare for some ‘poop’ talk and crappy jokes…
Let’s Gut Started!
Gut health relates to the functioning of our entire digestive tract – a 9 meter long tube which delivers food all the way from entry to exit; it starts in the mouth! The chewing process stimulates digestive salivation, helping to break down and dissolve food, starting the digestive process. Our food then travels through the oesophagus down to the stomach where it is mixed and churned with gastric juices, before entering the intestines. The small intestine is where most of the digestion and absorption of nutrients takes place, along with the continued movement of food into the large intestine. The large intestine houses most live bacteria which work to ferment fibre and extract remaining nutrients for the final stages of digestion / absorption.
Simple! So why is it that one third of the world’s population have some form of gut or digestive issue?
There’s a Zoo in my Poo…
The bacteria which live mainly in our large intestine are often referred to as our gut bugs or our gut microbiome.
Working to prioritise the health of our gut bacteria is important, as they work hard in our bodies to:
- Ferment the dietary fibre that our human cells cannot digest - needed for nutrient extraction
- Protect the quality of our gut lining which can facilitate digestion and absorption, along with encourage movement and a smooth passing
- Help to manage our weight and regulate our appetite hormone
- Contribute to a healthy functioning immune system as 70% of our immune cells actually live along our gut lining
- Influence mental wellbeing as 90 – 95% of our feel good hormone serotonin is produced in the gut
Ideally, we want to nourish our gut bacteria to create an environment that is devoid of inflammation and adequately absorbing nutrients.
In a situation which pathogenic bacteria flourish, our bodies could be in danger of inflammation, digestive and mood issues and could be more susceptible to illness and weight gain.
The good news is, we can play a part in controlling the balance of bacteria in our gut, as it can be largely influenced by certain diet and lifestyle factors. So, where do we start?
Feed your friends
In other words – feed your gut bugs! Our gut bacteria feast on colour, fibre and variety!
Colour: Eating colourfully or as we sometimes put it ‘Eating the Rainbow’ will provide us with a diverse range of nutrients and encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in our gut. Colourful foods also provide us with a micronutrient called polyphenols which travel through the body working to lower inflammation.
Fibre: As humans we cannot actually digest fibre, however it is our gut bacteria’s preferred source of fuel. Our gut microbes create short chain fatty acids from the fibre we consume, which can support absorption as well as create a positive environment for digestion.
It’s recommended that we eat 30g of fibre per day, however here in the UK we are not meeting those guidelines. Fibre is often found in many plant foods, good sources include; fruits and vegetables, oats, beans and legumes, whole grains and nuts and seeds.
Variety: Gut bugs get bored! Eating a diverse range of colourful fibre will create a more diverse microbiome. Recent recommendations have suggested to aim to consume 30 different plant foods per week, however if that doesn’t seem achievable, even adding one or two new fruits or vegetables to your shopping trolley welcomes a new element of variety.
It’s not just what we eat, it’s how we eat too! When we eat on the go or whilst otherwise engaged we are not fully present. This can lead to us rushing our food or not chewing it properly, causing the potential for bloating and digestive issues.
Consider taking a slower pace and working to be more present at meal times. If you’re in a rush or feeling stressed, try taking 3 mindful breaths before tucking into your meal – this could help to bring you back to the room.
Take it slow
A stressed mind leads to a stressed gut. Think about when you are feeling anxious – do your toilet habits change?!
Consistent high stress preoccupies our body making our digestive system become almost secondary and, at times, unable to function. Slow down and prioritise stress management in a way which works for your individual needs and see if you notice a difference.
Good gut health supports the healthy functioning of our immune system, helps to aid digestion and has an impact on our mental health too. One simple way of describing it, is that if we look after our gut, our gut will look after us!
Get to know your own normal. If you are noticing signals that something isn’t right, learn to trust your gut and prioritise managing it rather than letting it manage you.
*Be sure to contact the relevant health professional for advice if you notice continuous gut symptoms.
Holistic Health Coach - Anna Whyte
The ‘Wellness with Anna’ philosophy focuses on taking a more balanced and holistic approach to health. Often, the tools needed to make a lasting change are already in your toolbox. I offer client led guidance in order to support the progress of an individual working to meet their personal wellness goals. I will not diagnose, treat or take responsibility for bringing about wellness change, but direct, listen and support development. We work together on a journey to make health a main priority, both physically and mentally.