The more we learn about the gut, the more it becomes clear that a healthy gut is the starting point for a healthy, happy life. But how can you support a healthy gut? Let’s look at some simple tips for gut health.
What is the gut?
The gut isn’t just your tummy or intestines. It’s a full tract that goes from your mouth all the way through to the colon. The gut is where you break down food and nutrients and absorb them into the bloodstream.
Why is a healthy gut so important?
There are many reasons why a healthy gut will support a happy, balanced life. That is why it is a good idea to learn how to create a healthy gut.
One major aspect is its role in immunity. You may not know that up to 80% of your immune system is actually located in your gut. It is one of the first lines of defence against any invaders. So if your gut isn’t in tip-top shape, you’re more vulnerable to infection, heavy metals and other pathogens. You may also be at risk of developing intolerances.
Another important point is the link between the gut and brain, or the gut-brain axis. When we’re stressed, the nervous system is triggered, which then triggers the nerves within the gut. But the axis goes both ways – serotonin, a feel-good brain chemical, is mostly produced in the gut.
Problematic foods and gut health
There are some foods that can be irritating to the gut. They can stop you from maintaing a healthy gut. Here are some that I am often asked about.
If you are diagnosed Coeliac, absolutely yes, as it damages the gut lining. Some non-Coeliacs are also sensitive, so you’ll need to see whether it is a trigger for you. Some people can consume small amounts, some can have as much as they want, and some can’t touch it. If you feel better off gluten and experience symptoms when you do consume it, it’s best to avoid it.
There are two main kinds of sugar to consider. The sugar that is found naturally in food like fruit is absorbed slowly, thanks to the fibre in the food. But the other ‘free sugar’ that is added to foods is a different story! It can inflame the body and feed not-so-good bacteria in the gut, causing imbalances.
Reducing sugar is a good idea if you currently consume a fair bit. The best option is to get all of your sugar intake from wholefoods such as fruit. If you have issues such as candida, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or autoimmunity, you may be more sensitive to sugar of any kind.
Dairy is a common intolerance, so it could be causing irritation in your gut. There is lactose intolerance, casein intolerance and general dairy sensitivity, so it can be hard to pinpoint the issue. But if you feel puffy, tired or bloated after dairy, try switching it out for a non-dairy option such as almond or coconut.
Much like gluten, some people tolerate coffee and some don’t. Coffee is a stimulant and a diuretic. So if you are stressed out, coffee will further stress your adrenals and nervous system. In this case, you want to minimise your coffee intake.
As a rule of thumb, stick to 1-2 coffees per day if you tolerate it well. It’s also important to watch the dairy and sugar – many people do better with unsweetened coffee and dairy-free milk.
Simple steps to support a healthy gut
So what are some easy ways to keep your digestive tract happy all the way through? There are many choices, but these are my favourite starting steps.
Move your body
Exercise stimulates the nerves in your gut and helps to optimise motility, or movement of the gut. Even some gentle yoga or a walk around the block is a good starting point.
Focus on wholefoods
Eating a wholefood based diet is always best for a happy gut. It will provide you with the nutrients you need to repair the gut and optimise digestion. To get started, why not make fresh produce the star of every meal?
Lose the processed and packaged products
Processed foods are full of sugar, preservatives and other additives that many people can react to. By removing these, you allow your gut to settle and repair. It also reduces the strain on your detoxification system.
Remember, the gut can’t be fixed overnight if the problem has been building up over time. It takes time to repair the system and reduce symptoms. So take it one step at a time. It all starts with learning how to create a healthy gut.
Looking to learn how to create a healthy gut and a personalised plan that can support your gut health naturally? Dr. Rebecca Farthing (osteopath & naturopath) loves doing persalised health! She can sit down with you and get your plan of attack right for you.