This year, in addition to recipes and running/fitness posts, you’ll see an increase in posts focusing on certain aspects of health, nutrition, wellness and overall wellbeing. I’m passionate about the concepts that I share and know they are a key player in helping you feel your best, in association with exercise and eating good food.
The gut biome, is a very complex, delicate and intricate place. While you may think of your stomach and digestive system as just the place that takes in and gets rid of food, the reality is, that throughout the entire system there is essentially a whole other living environment made up of millions of bacteria and a constant life cycle. It consists of naturally occurring good and bad bacteria, levels of both of which are necessary for healthy gut function. It consists of millions of cells which produce digestive enzymes and digestive mucosa and lubricant, and all of which eat, live, die and carry out a life cycle requiring their own sources of nutrients and energy.
The precise balance of all of these components is essential for proper digestive function as well as helping us feel our best and maintain adequate energy levels, brain function and healthy skin. And while the body is incredibly good at maintaining this balance through its own methods, it’s important to support its efforts and focus on nurturing a healthy digestive system whenever possible. Here’s where you can start:
- Prebiotics – You can think of prebiotics as food for the probiotics! The healthy bacteria in our gut require the proper food and nourishment to survive and multiply and eating prebiotics is the best way to ensure this happens. Foods that are high in resistant starch are a great source of prebiotics. Resistant starch is starch that is not immediately digested when consumed, but rather remains in the gut to be slowly digested by the healthy bacteria as their source of energy and fuel. Black eyed peas and tiger nuts are great sources of resistant starch, while foods which contain inulin, such as bananas, dandelion root and asparagus are also a great way to get prebiotics, as inulin is a soluble fiber with naturally occurring prebiotic concentrations. Aim to consume prebiotics as regularly as probiotics to help keep all your healthy bacteria alive!
- Reduce your sugar – As if you didn’t already know enough reasons to reduce your sugar intake, improving your gut health is another one to add to the list. The bacteria that are in your gut feed off sugar. This is fine when your gut flora is in balance and you aren’t eating sugar in excess. If either of those things isn’t true however, sugar – of any kind, including fruit – acts as the ideal meal to feed the bad bacteria and allow them to proliferate. This in turn, not only leads to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the gut, but also depletes the resources available for the good bacteria of the gut, thereby causing them to die off and decrease in numbers as well. The end result is a continuously imbalanced gut biome that grows more and more out of control.
- Give your digestive system a break – If you do nothing else for your gut health, offer your digestive system a break and a chance to recharge. The digestive system is very complex, composed of so many components, many of which need to be maintained in a delicate balance. Day to day stresses, eating too much or too much of the wrong foods, and eating too frequently all add an extra burden to the digestive system, making it even more difficult for it to function properly. Taking a break is as simple as observing the natural fasting period: have dinner by 8 pm, and then don’t eat again until breakfast 11-13 hours later. Obviously for most of this you are asleep, but it is during this time of resting, sleeping, and in turn fasting, that our digestive system is able to have a break, as well as do necessary repairs, and replenish the nutrients necessary for adequate digestive enzymes.
- Fermented Foods and probiotics – You have no doubt heard the term probiotics thrown around when it comes to good gut health. Probiotics refers to the good bacteria within our gut. While this exists and reproduces naturally when the conditions are right, you can think of taking probiotics as manually increasing the good bacteria count of your gut to ensure it remains high and to prolong the health and balance of the gut flora. Fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut and tempeh are all a source of probiotics, as is natural yogurt and kefir. If you have particularly bad gut health, you may rely on a probiotic supplement, however, augmenting your probiotic intake via diet is the best way to go to ensure maximal absorption and bacterial growth.
- Supercharge your digestive system – There are heaps of superfoods on the market which can do wonders for your digestive system and which are worth looking into to add as part of your regular routine. You don’t need to try to get all of them, but investing in a few good gut health products that you can add into your smoothies or sprinkle into your overnight oats can be very beneficial. Furthermore, rotate through and try different ones so your digestive tract doesn’t become too used to a certain one, leading to a decrease in benefits. Here’s a breakdown of some popular ones:
- Dichotomous Earth – Fossil flour made from plant matter, this relatively new to the market superfood has the effect of helping sweep clean the digestive tract, aiding the removal of residual toxins or undigested matter clogging the digestive tract.
- Slippery Elm – Slippery Elm helps protect and support the mucosal lining of the digestive tract, an important component which functions in enzyme release, the movement of food and the absorption of nutrients.
- Activated Charcoal – Charcoal functions via chelation, where it binds to toxins within the body, such as in the digestive tract, and then sends them on the right path for elimination.
- Aloe Vera Juice – Drink this regularly to help support the mucosal lining of the digestive tract, reduce inflammation and to ease digestive discomfort.
- Marshmallow Root – Another natural plant which helps with the mucosal lining of the digestive tract, this slightly sweet root also helps reduce gut inflammation, which often hinders proper digestion and nutrient absorption.
- Licorice Root – This slightly sweet root is great for easing nausea and overall stomach discomfort as caused by poor digestive function or bacterial imbalance.
- Turmeric – The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of turmeric are just as great for the digestive tract as they are for other areas of your body. Consume turmeric as a tea or add it to your cooking!
This is an idea of some of the things you can do to promote a healthy gut and improve your digestive system. A healthy gut flora is linked to better concentration and brain function, improved mood and emotional disposition, increased energy levels and overall enhanced wellbeing.
If you feel your gut could do with some help, or you find yourself low on energy and with regular symptoms of bloating, indigestion and nausea, book in for a nutrition consultation and you’ll receive a customized plan to help improve your gut health.