You’ve heard all about gut health, probiotics and tried every fermented food under the sun, but do you really know what a healthy gut looks like? It really is in your best interest that you start paying attention to your gut. It can tell us an awful lot about our health and give some early warning signs that something isn’t quite right. If you haven’t been to the toilet in a few days, find yourself bloated to the point people are offering you a seat on the tube or dashing to the loo as soon as you’ve taken a sip of coffee? All of these things might be linked to an imbalance of some sort.
The gastrointestinal tract is complex. If you are having issues, it would be advisable to seek out some real help. Advice on the internet is likely to be generic and a Nutritional Therapist might spot links or issues where you didn’t even realise they existed. Finding gut health is not easy as we are exposed to so much stress and toxicity but working with a practitioner could make this process easier. But the main thing to note is that bloating, constipation, flatulence, belching, diarrhoea or any pain are not right, especially if you are getting any of these regularly.
Your body is telling you things, start listening:
Note it down. Keep a food diary, including everything you eat and drink, exercise, stress levels, and when you go to the toilet. The more detail the better and although you might feel like you’re writing war and peace, it could show you or a specialist some links
Chew. Chewing your food is so utterly important, as the more we chew, the more we help our bodies further down the line. Chewing does three things; physically breaks down food, saliva is released which contains digestive enzymes and it also triggers the release of acid in the stomach and digestive enzymes in the intestines. Better digestion means happier gut.
Hydrate. At least 2 litres of water or herbal teas a day to be precise. Get a reusable water bottle like our S’well bottles and keep it to hand.
Variety. Most specifically variety in fruits and vegetables. It literally is a case of the more the merrier here. Set yourself a target to eat at least 8 portions of different fruits and vegetables a day.
Breathe. You would be surprised what breathing can do. Not only is it oxygenating but it will also help your body move towards the parasympathetic nervous system which is simply put our “rest and digest” zone. Calm mind, happy gut is what we say!
Fibre. Legumes, pulses, vegetables. All of these can do wonders to our bowel movements, helping regulate our stools but also providing goodness for our gut bacteria. Try a morning smoothie – two handfuls of leafy greens, one handful of berries, a scoop of protein powder (we love Form Nutrition) one tablespoon of flaxseed and then add water, kefir or coconut water as you wish.
Probiotics. Symprove is one of our favourite probiotics brands, but any other fermented foods will also help. Kimchi, kombucha (we love Remedy Kombucha) or sauerkraut are all good options. If you feel that probiotics make your symptoms worse it could be you’re suffering from SIBO and it’s definitely advisable to see a Nutritional Therapist or a Naturopath if this is the case.
Take a break. Not just from stress but also from eating, we are all queens of snacking and sometimes it’s necessary but having a small break in between meals could do us some good. Start by trying a 3-hour gap between meals, even just every now and again or on certain days of the week to let our bodies process food properly.
Remove. Play around with what might be triggering your symptoms and see what happens when you take it out completely. It might just be that you do this for a week or so but it might well make a big difference.
Sugar. We’re sorry but it just isn’t doing you any good. Ensure you’re balancing blood sugar by combining complex carbohydrates with good sources of protein at every meal, to stop you craving it. But sugar can be adding to bloating by feeding bad bacteria and might mean that you aren’t stocking up on the vitamins and minerals your body actually needs, so try and do everything possible to remove the refined, white, instant fix sugary treats that leave us feeling groggy and tired. Swap the sugar for a healthy, nourishing snack that your body will thank you for in the long run.
Lifestyle. You will be amazed what your lifestyle do to your gut health and how you feel. Sleep, stress, exercise can all have the power to make some really positive changes to our digestion. So make sure you’re sleeping enough and get moving even if it’s just a half an hour walk a day and try to combat stress where possible.
Small changes can make big differences and gut health doesn’t have to come with a hefty price tag. Tune in to your body, listen to what it’s telling you. Most of all remember what works for you might be different to someone else and vice versa so go slowly and easily on yourself and gradually you’ll start to know what works for you and what doesn’t.
words by Rachel Cruickshank @thebodynatural
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