The health of our gut is reflective of our overall health and wellbeing. If our gut isn’t in good shape it can potentially have a negative impact on the health of other bodily systems. The late Hippocrates once quoted ‘All disease begins in the gut’.
There are several factors that can impair gut function such as sugar, certain medications, processed foods and alcohol. Regular consumption of the latter can sorely affect our microbiome.
The state of the microbiome is fundamental to overall gut health. The gut houses trillions of beneficial bacteria otherwise known as the microbiome. The microbiome influences the health of the gut by working tirelessly to keep our beneficial bacteria flourishing and the not so beneficial ones at bay. By doing so it paves the way for healthy digestion, assimilation, absorption and excretion of nutrients.
Adequate excretion of waste products is imperative for the removal of toxins, excess cholesterol, pathogens and dead blood cells. How efficacious the body is at doing so ultimately depends on the how well our gut functions.
Try these top tips to keep your gut in tip top shape
Pre & probiotic care
Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth and/or activity of beneficial bacteria in the colon. They adhere to the gut wall creating a desirable environment for beneficial bacteria to feed, proliferate and flourish. Prebiotic care is desirable before taking a round of probiotics. Prebiotic foods include oats, sweet potato, apples, legumes, bananas, garlic and onions.
Probiotics aim to repopulate our existing colony. There are many brands of probiotics on the market today, which can be quite confusing. Look for refrigerated probiotics that contain a minimum of 30 billion CFU, and 8 or more differentiating strains.
Nutrient dense diet
A diet rich in nutrients is important for feeding the trillions of cells in our body, particularly the ones in our gut. Beneficial nutrients, predominately from lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables feed our microbiome. Our beneficial bacteria buddies thrive on these nutrients, particularly those from fruits and vegetables. These foods promote a suitable environment for our microflora to multiply, prosper and invalidate offensive pathogens.
In order for the assimilation of nutrients to take place in the gut we need to consume the right ones. Once food has been broken down into its molecular state, these nutritious molecules assist each other in absorption by transportation. For example vitamin C enhances the absorption of iron via chelation.
Increase digestive enzymes
Digestive enzymes are of great importance when it comes to digesting macronutrients; fats, carbohydrates and proteins. Adequate digestion of these nutrients enables our body to effectively absorb and utilise our nutrients sufficiently.
Our body naturally produces these enzymes with the pancreas, stomach, small intestine and salivary glands playing the major role in the manufacturing process. It is possible for these manufacturing sites to become unsatisfactorily impaired, weakening production. Production of digestive enzymes may be improved and supported via certain foods containing naturally active digestive enzymes such as papaya, pineapple and kiwi fruit. Try consuming a small portion of either/or before a main meal to enhance the beak down of macronutrients.
Adequate stomach pH
Parietal cells in our stomach produce and secrete hydrochloric acid in order to break down foods competently. An adequate pH level of HCL is a prerequisite for effective digestion. The stomach requires a low pH of 2. Certain medications, may neutralise your stomach acid, rendering it less efficacious in the breakdown of nutrients. Undigested foods can alter bowel function and deprive the body of nutrients. The addition of bitter foods such as rocket, endive, kale or olives to a meal, or preferably a few mouthfuls before a meal may induce the stimulation of HCL production.
Inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract can be caused by existing conditions such as Irritable bowel syndrome as well as certain medications and highly processed foods. Inflammation can evoke unwanted symptoms of nausea, cramping, bloating and/or diarrhoea and can potentially interfere and impair all aspects of digestion. The implementation and or the increase of anti-inflammatory foods such as ginger, turmeric, chilli, pineapple, oily fish and fresh fruits and vegetables will aid in reducing the inflammatory response and aid in repair.
Move your bowels regularly
Bowel motions are important for the removal of waste products such as toxins, excess cholesterol and potential pathogens. Stagnation of waste products can ferment and fester in the colon, which may lead to irritation in the gut. Bowel motions are significantly important in the prevention of stagnant waste development.
It is important to note that the number of bowel motions one has may differ to next person. A ‘regular’ bowel motion may be 1-3 per day to once every 3 days. Adequate daily fibre intake, ideally obtained from fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains will bulk up the stool as well as draw water into the colon, making for a much needed satisfying and slippery exit. Let’s not forget water intake too. Around 2L per day will aid in the escape plan. If you notice any out of character changes in your bowel movements, seek medical attention.
Our posture has a lot to do with how well we release our inner waste. Refrain from straining! Try lifting the knees up into a squat like position whilst slightly arching your back. This is best done by placing the feet on a small stool in front of you. This enables the back passage to straighten out, which facilitates departure.
Consume fermented foods
Fermented foods have been traditionally practiced for hundreds of years, mainly to preserve the seasons harvest in the prevention of spoilage. Fermented foods such as yoghurt, kombucha, kimchi, kefir and sauerkraut are teaming with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria. The implementation of these foods into the daily diet will contribute to digestive wellness by supporting and enhancing our microbiome.
Research suggests light to moderate physical movement may have a protective effect on the gastrointestinal tract by reducing certain bowel conditions and improving gut microflora. Exercise improves gastrointestinal motility and increases bile salt metabolism, which aids in digestion. The body’s response to physical movement enables and promotes a regular pattern of waste excretion and a reduction in the build-up of toxins.
Stress can cause many undesirable gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation, diarrhoea, reflux and gas. Experiencing these symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and at times debilitating. Addressing and managing stress accordingly in order to prevent these symptoms is beneficial. Stress reduction is an individualistic process, recommendations vary according to personal interest. Try setting some time aside to do what invigorates you, surround yourself with loved ones and most importantly address the concern causing stress. Always speak with your General Practitioner to seek professional advice if stress is unmanageable.