When someone suggests you should “go with your gut” — they’re more right than you probably realise. Thanks to a whopping 40 trillion bacteria perpetually hard at work, your gut helps power your entire body, so it is very important to take good care of it.
The gut is where 70% of your immune system lies, where we metabolise hormones, where we make nutrients and neurotransmitters, create detoxifying enzymes and neutralise pathogens. All of these processes can profoundly affect us if not in balance or working properly.
To achieve a healthy gut, we need to support good bacteria in our digestive system. Bacteria pretty much run the show! Unfortunately, beneficial gut bacteria is not a big fan of many of the lifestyle factors that are synonymous with modern living. Stress, processed food, antibiotics, alcohol, cigarettes, sugar and pollution can all compromise good bacteria and feed the pathogenic bacteria.
So how do we ensure that the good bacteria is winning?
- Eat wholefoods: A good diet packed full of natural and unprocessed food encourages the growth of good bacteria. Make an effort to go for low HI (human intervention) foods. That means eating plenty of farm fresh wholefoods that nature provides, not foods that are processed in a lab.
- De-stress: Practising mindfulness through yoga, meditation, exercise and being kind to yourself, all help encourage beneficial gut flora. Haven’t you heard the phrase ‘don’t get your stomach in a knot?’
- Focus on fibre: Increase your overall fibre content, especially if your intake of fruit, vegetables and legumes is low. Fibre can provide a huge variety of compounds and nutrients that will help improve gut health. Fibre in whole grains, fruit, veggies, nuts and legumes are great for gut health in so many different ways.
- Probiotics: The proven strains of good bacteria include lactobacillus and bifidobacterium species can be found in yoghurt and probiotic drinks, but be careful that those products are not also full of gut-depleting sugar. Probiotic supplements are also helpful at balancing gut bacteria.
- Lacto-fermented foods: Kombucha, kimchi and miso are also a great way to get natural viable bacteria into the belly. These are lacto-fermented foods. The lacto-fermentation process creates a broad range of beneficial bacteria. The proliferation of lactobacilli in lacto-fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut for example, predigests the cabbage making digestion easier and nutrients more available for the body to utilise. The process also creates good bacteria that helps to re-colonise the gut. Studies show that consuming lacto-fermented foods can influence mood and probiotics can help eliminate disease-promoting pathogenic bacteria in the gut.
- Drink wisely: No surprises here but alcohol can negatively affect gut health. Reducing overall intake of alcohol and remember to drink more water is great for the gut. Water is also vital for cleansing the gut keeping the whole body hydrated and functioning at its best.
- Reduce junk food: Unfortunately, your gut doesn’t like processed, fatty, sugary foods even if you do. Reducing your intake of junk foods like soft drink, lollies, biscuits, chips and pizza, and make healthier alternatives instead will have your gut glowing with happiness!
- Activate your nuts: Raw nuts contain phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors that can reduce the body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients properly. Eating large amounts of raw nuts can put extra pressure on your digestive system and may cause uncomfortable symptoms like bloating, heaviness and nausea. There are numerous studies in grains and legumes that show soaking and/or germination decreases the amount of phytate in the seed, and the amount of easily absorbed minerals increases. This means activating our nuts will make it gentler on our guts.