“All diseases begin in the gut,” wrote Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, yet many of us underestimate how integral good gut health is to our overall wellbeing. In fact, scientists often refer to it as the ‘second brain’ because an imbalanced gut can affect everything from heart health and premature ageing to weight gain and depression. Amelia Freer, author of Eat, Nourish, Glow, explains that “a healthy gut means no daily bloating, gas, constipation, discomfort or tiredness after eating. You’ll also sleep better, have more energy and experience fewer mood swings.” Sounds good to us, but what can we do to achieve a healthier gut? Living North investigates…
Our body is home to 100 trillion bacteria, and most of them – both good and bad – live in the gut. The build-up of bad bacteria (caused by toxins in the food we eat, hormonal imbalances, and stress) is neutralised by good bacteria, but if this balance shifts (a state known as dysbiosis), the negative effects on our mental and physical wellbeing can be huge. Probiotics and prebiotics boast a whole host of gut-healing properties and help to combat harmful bacteria, aid digestion, and promote a strong gut lining. Upping your consumption of fermented foods (kimchi, miso, tempeh, kombucha, kefir and sauerkraut) or opt for a convenient probiotic supplement, taken each morning.
Get your fibre fix
Fibre is a hot topic in the world of health and wellbeing, with over 90% of Brits failing to meet the recommended 30g a day. Fibre is essential to provide the nutrients for the probiotic bacteria in our gut to flourish. Upping our daily intake of fibre-rich foods (think legumes, leafy greens, oats and nuts) will improve bowel regularity, which leads to noticeable improvements in our skin, energy levels and the strength of our immune systems.
‘Mindfulness’ may have been the buzzword of 2018, but by implementing a mindful approach to mealtimes – that is, by being present and acknowledging what you’re eating – you can really improve your gut health. Mindful eating has nothing to do with restrictions or fad diets, it’s simply about making healthier food choices, appreciating your mealtime, and noticing when you’re full (rather than finishing your plate, just because).
OK, easier said than done, but if you’re serious about improving your gut health, you need to work on reducing stressors at work and at home. It’s as simple as this: epinephrine (the stress hormone) allows gut bacteria to proliferate, the gut bacteria then bind to the intestinal wall and cause inflammation, irritation and painful bloating. To quell anxiety and keep stress levels low, morning meditation or a short walk during the workday are small changes that yield big results.
Drink more water
You don’t need us to tell you how important your water intake is for just about every bodily function. Struggle to reach the recommended eight glasses a day? Hydrate with decaffeinated teas, such as digestion-supporting ginger or a soothing chamomile brew before bed.