Gut Health – What everyone is talking about
We really don’t give our digestive systems as much credit as they deserve. They may not be as aesthetically beautiful as other parts of our body, and don’t take up as much space on our Instagram feed, but we would be nothing without our glorious guts. Digestive health (and imbalance) affects us in so many subtle ways. It can affect our mood and thoughts, our digestion, energy, motivation and general health. Here are some tips for helping to keep your digestive system (and therefore yourself!) in good shape.
Take Good Care of Your ‘Friends’
I’m talking about your beneficial bacteria that reside in your gut. These little guys do so much for us – they boost our immunity, protect us from the overgrowth of pathogenic (the bad guys!) bacteria, help us digest our food and generally keep our guts healthy. They really are remarkable little creatures and deserve all the spotlight they have been getting in research circles recently. Seriously, if you Google research papers on probiotics (or am I the only one?), you will find loads of great studies out there. Good bacteria love it when you eat a varied, whole foods based diet with adequate fibre but don’t particularly enjoy it when you drink too much alcohol, take antibiotics and eat junk food (more on this below). If you give these little guys a good home they will spend the rest of their little lives looking after you.
Help Keep Your Garden Beautiful
A nice way to think about your gut is that it is like a beautiful garden. Good bacteria are like the gorgeous flowers that grow in your garden. They need a healthy environment and garden to live on and in – which involves your gut lining. Also know as your intestinal barrier, it helps to separate and protect the inside of your body from the external environment. It covers a surface of 400m2 and requires around 40% of the body’s energy expenditure, which is pretty amazing! When this barrier is disrupted, it can have far reaching effects on health that we are only really just starting to understand (although good gut health has always been a cornerstone of Naturopathic medicine!). I’m sure you have heard of leaky gut – it’s a commonly used term, and is a condition, which has been implicated in many disease processes including autoimmune conditions, allergy and food intolerance, IBS and mental health conditions. Factors that may negatively affect your gut lining, include gluten intake, viral infections, drugs, alcohol and an energy-dense Western diet. Don’t be disheartened though, there are a wide and extensive range of nutrients and herbs, that can help improve leaky gut such as vitamin A, vitamin D, glutamine and probiotics.
Eat More Gut-Friendly Foods
The typical Western diet really isn’t conducive to good gut health for many reasons. Our low intake of fibre plays a big part. Our good bacteria thrive on fibre (they need something to eat too!) and especially love resistant starch (that is resistant to digestion). Healthy bacteria break down and use resistant starch to keep our gut cells healthy. Good sources of resistant starch include green bananas (which you can use as a flour in baking) and oats, so increase your intake of these foods and watch your good bacteria flourish. In contrast, diets high in junk food and high fat diets may also have a negative effect on gut health. Take home message? Eat a wide and varied range of whole foods such as wholegrains, fruits and vegetables as well as fermented foods like kefir and kim chi and your health will improve from the inside out.
Love your guts and look after them and they will love you right back. All you need to do is grow a beautiful garden, invite some friends and give them lots of good food to eat. Easy right?!?
If any of you lovely chickadees have any more questions on gut health please feel free to contact me anytime via the below details.