With information about our health being published around the world constantly, it is difficult to know where to begin when we want to take better care of ourselves. More and more of us are realising that the saying is true: you are what you eat, and this is certainly the case when it comes to our digestive system. How we digest our foods is linked closely with our mood, behaviour, energy, hormones, immunity and food cravings, and our guts are so important for many vital functions in our bodies and deal with every aspect of our health.
The gut, now being one of the most investigated areas of science and medical research, has also been closely linked with disorders such as diabetes, obesity and cancer, so taking care of our gut health has never been so important. We spoke to nutritionist Grace Carey-Caton, who outlines the most important things we can do to improve our gut health.
Increase your plant-based proteins
Plant-based proteins including beans, lentils, chickpeas, nuts and seeds are some of the richest sources of dietary fibre. Fibre is vital to support the good bacteria in your gut and to promote elimination (pass a stool). They can easily be added to dishes such as curries, soups, stews and salads or made into dips. They are a great source of protein too they make an excellent vegetarian meal base for non-meat eaters and meat eaters alike.
Maximise and vary your fruit and vegetable consumption
Eating a diet filled with a huge variety of fruits and vegetables is hugely beneficial to gut health in order to provide an array of different nutrients. Studies show that including 10 different portions of fruits and vegetables a day, rather than the usual five, is considered optimal to support us against diseases and disorders. Top tip: eat a rainbow choice of fruit and vegetable colours in order to maximise your nutrient intake.
Make the white to whole grain swap
Make the swap from white grains to the mighty whole grains. Whole grains are less processed than white grains and contain a much higher amount of fibre as well as providing us with a more stable source of energy. Double win! Try a range of whole grains from brown rice, to quinoa, whole wheat pasta, rye bread or oats.
Add probiotic foods to your diet
Fermented foods contain beneficial bacteria, which can support our gut health to provide us with a healthy microbiome. Fermented foods include natural yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, pickles and kimchi. Alternatively, you can take a probiotic supplement, however, I would recommend seeing a nutritional therapist about this who can recommend you the appropriate dosage and strain.
Add prebiotic foods to your diet
Prebiotics are a type of fibre which work to stimulate the growth of the gut microorganisms, which supports digestive health. Essentially, they feed the good bugs in our intestines! Prebiotic rich foods include oats, artichoke, garlic, asparagus and banana.
Learn how to relax
You know the saying, going with my gut feeling, or the feeling of having butterflies when you’re nervous? That’s because the gut and the brain are very interconnected – the gut is home to over 100 million neurons of the nervous system! These neurons are in continuous communication with the brain, so it is vital to keep yourself relaxed in order to keep your digestion relaxed. Try adding more self-care into your life; yoga, meditation, journaling or walking in nature are good ways to start.
Get your sleep on track
Getting your eight hours of sleep is also important for gut heath. Studies show that poor sleep can negatively affect the gut microbiome. Additionally, with lack of sleep, our bodies release the stress hormone called cortisol which also can disrupt our digestive systems and cause symptoms such as bloating and constipation. Aim for eight hours of sleep each night at the same time. If you have trouble dozing off, try a bedtime routine such as Epsom salt baths, lavender essential oil or bedtime meditation.
Grace is a nutritional therapist (mBANT) (rCNHC) who specialises in gut health and women’s health. Her approach to nutrition is to work with her clients to educate them on how to treat their bodies so that they can live their lives with optimum health.
Quote code LLM15 to receive 15% off your first consultation with Grace and for more information email her on firstname.lastname@example.org.