H&H contributor, Eleanor Hoath (Naturopathic Nutrition Therapy Practitioner DipNT CNM ANP mBANT) shares her advice for giving your gut health a much-needed MOT after the festive period.
The increasing awareness over the importance of our gut health is growing which is understandable given that your gut not only plays a part in digestion but is also responsible for immune function, skin health, hormone regulation and mental health. All of which are factors that we start to notice symptoms flaring up. From the breakouts, the moodiness and the sniffles that come following the festive period.
With more and more health conditions being linked to an imbalance of the microbiome, we are starting to understand the reason why it is so important to keep our gut in tip-top condition.
Our gut consists of thin walls of cells that work as a barrier between what we keep within the gut and what crosses the barrier, entering our bloodstream. This wall is known as the gut lining, which when working optimally plays the role of the security guard between germs and substances we pick up through food and our environment. An impaired gut lining can often be described as ‘leaky gut syndrome’ – whereby germs and pathogens can make it past the ‘security guard’ and enter our bloodstream manifesting as a weakened immune system, brain fog and skin complaints. In these circumstances, symptoms of both acute and chronic diseases can become apparent.
Our fast-paced, high-stress lifestyles and modern-day habits contribute to the weakening of our gut lining, especially high sugar foods, alcohol and frequent antibiotic use – which also place an additional burden on our liver too.
A weakened gut lining is often something I focus on strengthening with my clients in my clinic – especially if there is a potential diagnosis of leaky gut and/or weakened digestive function.
So what can we do to get our gut back in shape?
Reducing and managing stress
It’s easier said than done when many of us are constantly in a go go go mindset, especially today with the unknown always lurking – but research has shown that high-stress levels are awfully damaging to our gut lining. Ensuring you are maintaining a healthy sleep schedule will also allow your body the time it needs to rest and repair.
Why not start the new year with an intention of meditating daily, apps such as Headspace or feelbetter by Deliciouslly Ella is a great place to start. Journaling with that new mindful journal that you had in your Christmas stocking or making a self-care evening part of your weekly routine.
Reducing exposure to gut damaging ingredients
Within my clinical practice, I never demonise food groups and believe that everything should be enjoyed in moderation. However, frequent intake of dairy, sugar, processed foods and alcohol is damaging to the sensitive cells of the gut lining and can weaken the barrier. These foods are often enjoyed heavily over Christmas, so reducing them as we head into a period of ‘repair’ can be beneficial. Enjoy these foods in moderation and ensure you are optimising plant-based foods including fibrous vegetables and an abundance of protein.
Optimise your nutrient status
Protein and healthy fats are the building blocks for repairing and rebuilding the gut lining whilst strengthening the gut barrier. The added bonus of retaining nutrients, sustaining satiety and optimising metabolism.
Nourishing your tummy with essential proteins such as collagen and elastin not only makes your skin tight and glowy but will also support a healthy gut lining too. Try adding a scoop of Bare Biology’s Collagen into your morning cuppa or ending the day with a nourishing cup of Organic Bone Broth from Planet Paleo.
Addition of probiotic-rich foods
Probiotics are the ingredients that feed our healthy gut bacteria and therefore contribute to the strengthening of our gut lining and optimisation of our digestive function. Foods such as Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Miso and Tempeh are all fantastic sources of fermented foods as well as eating products that are enriched with live cultures such as yoghurts, probiotic drinks and spreads.
Increasing fibre rich foods
Equally, the importance of what comes out is just as important as what we put into our guts. Increasing dietary fibre and ensuring we remain hydrated maintains daily bowel movements to encourage the removal of toxic waste building up within the digestive tract – contributing to further gut dysbiosis.
words by Eleanor Hoath
Owner & Founder of WELL NOURISHED www.wellnourished.me