Healthy Gut, Healthy Life
Digestive health is central to your overall health, and it is affected by nutritional status, immune response and state of mind.
Why is good gut health important?
The gut microbiota is the primary driver orchestrating communication between the gut and all bodily functions, influencing not only digestion and absorption of nutrients, but also metabolic, brain and immune function.
How can you keep your gut healthy?
Everything you eat affects the microbes in your gut, as do many lifestyle choices. Eating highly processed foods, living under chronic stress, and insufficient sleep are three key lifestyle factors that are detrimental to gut health and are implicated in a variety of unpleasant symptoms. Abdominal distress may be signalled with bloating, wind, indigestion or heartburn, pain, diarrhoea or constipation.
Fatigue, food cravings, unintended weight changes, skin problems, allergies and mood swings may also indicate gut problems.
Adopting diet and lifestyle habits that focus on nourishing your gut microbiome is the best way to support optimal gut health. Making small and easy changes to shift your dietary choices towards nutritious foods that are rich in dietary fibre is the most important first step.
Beat the Big 3
Constipation: This is not just uncomfortable – it can be extremely painful. Bowel habits vary widely from one person to another, but a generally accepted definition is that if someone struggles to pass hard, dry stools and/or only passes stools infrequently, every three days or so, then they are constipated.
In the majority of cases, constipation is the result of inadequate fibre and fluids in the diet.
Fibre is the medium that makes up the stool, so lack of fibre results in smaller harder stools and lack of fluid leaves them dry and difficult to pass. Lack of fibre may also compromise gut health and reduce the numbers of beneficial gut microflora required for optimal gut function.
Other contributing factors include a lack of exercise, medical disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome, medications, including those prescribed for high blood pressure, depression and pain relief, high blood calcium levels, a sluggish thyroid and diabetes.
If symptoms persist for more than two weeks, despite self-help measures such as taking a prebiotic and probiotic supplement, seek professional advice.
Indigestion: The technical name for this is dyspepsia, but the term ‘indigestion’ covers a wide range of undesirable symptoms, primarily as a result of food not passing smoothly through the gut and digestive system; eating too much or too quickly, eating foods that you are sensitive to and having too much or too little acid in the stomach are also possible causes.
If you regularly experience bouts of indigestion, featuring nausea and heartburn as the stomach acid flows back up into the oesophagus. You can help to prevent indigestion by including a prebiotic fibre to aid digestion, eating slowly, chewing well and allowing food to settle before engaging in exercise or going to bed. Gentle herbal teas like ginger and chamomile can help with symptomatic relief.
Bloating: A common disorder triggered by an unsettled gut, and usually appearing with burping, cramps, swelling and a lot of stomach gurgles and wind. Eat slowly, do not wolf your food! Occasional mild bloating is somewhat normal and may even reflect a healthy and balanced diet. If you are experiencing painful or frequent bloating, get advice from your friendly Naturopath before removing foods from your diet.
Synbiotics for a healthy gut Synbiotics are a combination of probiotics, or ‘good’ gut bacteria, and prebiotics, which are the non-digestible fibres that help these bacteria to survive and grow in the gut. The two work together (synergistically) in the gut, and they are considered to help the gut – and therefore the entire body – in several ways. Scientific research indicates that synbiotics will reduce inflammation and can have beneficial effects on a very wide range of gut health problems, including travellers’ diarrhoea, stomach pain, flatulence, constipation, indigestion and bloating, as well as improving metabolism and the immune system. Some evidence suggests that taking synbiotics are also linked to reduced obesity and improvements in glucose metabolism and insulin resistance, helping to prevent or manage type 2 diabetes.
So be a be a fibre fan! Take a natural prebiotic dietary fibre supplement like kfibre to maintain optimal gut health. Prebiotics are particular plant fibres that contain resistant starch, which provides ‘food’ for probiotics, and naturally boosts the body’s production of healthy gut bacteria.
Linseed: Provides good amounts of protein, fibre and omega-3 fatty acids. It is a gut-friendly ingredient that helps to improve digestion.
Green banana flour: Is rich source of plant based resistant starch that your gut will love. It also supplies natural inulin, a prebiotic resistant starch which encourages production of digestive enzymes to nourish beneficial gut bacteria.
Cassava: Cassava flour is made from a root vegetable native to South America. Being nut-free, grain-free and gluten-free, it is a great choice for anyone with food allergies or intolerances. It is also a good source of vitamin C, nerve soothing magnesium and resistant starch, which research suggests can improve gut health by helping to boost production of beneficial gut bacteria.
Gut loving Food.
Foods that contain natural digestive enzymes include pineapples, papayas, mangoes, honey, bananas, avocados, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kiwifruit and ginger. Adding any of these foods to your diet may help promote digestion and better gut health.
Broccoli, cauliflower and kale contain sulphoraphane which boosts production of detoxification enzymes, and apples and grapes provide quercetin, that inhibits the Helicobacter bacterium that causes stomach ulcers.
Bone broth is also one of the best foods to consume for those suffering digestive issues, as it is rich in gelatine. Gelatine is essential for connective tissue function – it literally acts to heal and seal the gut,
Probiotics can be found in fermented foods, such as yoghurt, kefir and sauerkraut, and also in supplemental form. Taking additional probiotics will help ensure adequate numbers of these ‘friendly’ bacteria.
Add herbal helpers
Whether used in cooking or taken in supplemental form, herbs are a powerful source of gut-protective and immune supportive antioxidants.
Basil stimulates the immune system to produce more disease fighting antibodies and also suppresses intestinal parasites.
Wormwood and Black Walnut help to expel intestinal threadworms and pinworms from the body.
Coriander protects DNA in healthy cells from dangerous and potentially carcinogenic aflatoxins found in mouldy food and peanuts.
Turmeric – the golden spice that gives curries their distinctive colour and aroma – is a rich source of curcumin, an antioxidant that fights inflammation.
Oregano, the traditional Italian favourite, contains carvacrol and thymol which help the body’s defences to repel pathogenic bacteria like Staphylococcus and Salmonella.
A key herb which helps to heal and strengthen gut function is aloe vera, soothing and protective, it helps the body replace the mucus lost with gut damage and leaky gut syndrome.
There is also slippery elm (increases mucilage in the digestive tract and stimulates gut nerve endings to naturally boost the body’s own mucus secretion)
Licorice (replenishes the mucus that creates a healthy intestinal barrier) and marshmallow root (has a high mucilage content, which coats the digestive tract with a protective lining).
Take out nutritional insurance L-glutamine is an amino acid which plays a critical role in restoring gut health by speeding up gut cell regeneration. It has been shown to repair the breaks in the intestinal wall seen in leaky gut syndrome and can be used as both a remedy for this condition and a preventive, minimising the damage caused by certain foods, environmental toxins, infections, medications and stress that trigger leaky gut syndrome in the first place.
It's such a big topic, but even just a few tweaks may help you get on top of tummy troubles. It is, most certainly, not a one size fits all approach and may require some sound advice. We’re here to help.