The health of your gut is the key to your overall health. The Hub’s naturopathic nutritionist Rhi Hepple gives the lowdown on gut health, including how to spot if your gut’s not working well, what to do about it – and how you could turn get your microbiome (gut flora) squeaky healthy in just two weeks…
Not only is your gut (stomach and intestines) in charge of digestion, absorption of nutrients and excretion of waste, it is also a key player in your immunity – and even your happiness. Did you know that 70% of your immune cells lie in the wall of your intestines? Or that your gut flora (a vast colony of 100 trillion micro-organisms known as the microbiome) may contribute to the health of your heart and brain, prevent some cancer and autoimmune diseases, and perhaps play a role in the development and progression of obesity.
Such has been the interest in gut health recently that 80% of articles published in medical journals over the past 40 years were printed in the four years from 2013 to 2017. Research into the bacteria in our gut is set to provide some groundbreaking ways to prevent and cure diseases.
A healthy gut plays a key role in:
- Detoxification of toxins
Getting your bowels to function optimally is essential. Most chronic diseases start with an imbalance in the gut. Your primary route of elimination is your colon, so if you are not eliminating these toxins efficiently then these can be reabsorbed into the bloodstream, affecting your health. Too much toxicity in your blood can not only make you feel unwell but will make your blood more acidic which can lead to inflammation.
- Defence against viral, bacterial and fungal infections
With headline news of an increase in sepsis because of antibiotic resistance, what can we do to reduce our risk of infections? Make sure your gut is healthy. Your microbiome (the healthy bacteria in the digestive tract) is your defence team against bacterial and fungal infections. Having poor gut microbiome will lead to a poor immune system. This gut microbiome also supports the development of white blood cells which play an important role in fighting off infections.
- Absorption of nutrients
We get all our fuel and all our nutrients from the food we eat, with these nutrients strengthening our health and supporting all cellular functions. It’s not just about what passes through your gut, however – it’s what nutrients are actually absorbed from that food that actually keeps your body fine-tuned. Good gut bacteria and producing enough digestive enzymes are crucial in how you metabolise your nutrients.
- Our happiness
Research shows that being happy strengthens the immune system. The neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine – our ‘happy hormones’, so called because they are key to regulating our moods – are made in the gut. Which means that literally an unhappy gut = an unhappy mind.
So do you have a digestive imbalance?
- Are you constipated? Ideally you want to be opening your bowels one to three times a day.
- Are you opening you bowels more than three times a day?
- Are they very loose, liquidy, or slimy?
- Are they pale in colour or even with a tone of green?
- Do you sometimes alternate between constipated and diarrhoea?
- Do you suffer from bloating?
- Do you have excess flatulence, especially if it is very smelly?
- Do you get trapped wind, colic pain, tummy aches or cramps?
- Do you have an urgent need to go to the toilet when you need to go?
- Do you lack energy?
- Do you suffer with nausea?
- If you have taken antibiotics in the last year or suffered with any sickness or diarrhoea bugs then your microbiome will have been adversely affected.
If you don’t provide your body with the right fuel, or your body can’t absorb what it needs from the food you eat then you will get ill. Simple as that.
And what can you do if your gut is out of balance?
The Human Microbiome Project, started in 2007, is a landmark study that is researching our microbiome and health. It’s been found that the number and diversity of vegetables consumed correlates to the diversity of our bacteria. The more different types of plants a person eats the higher their gut microbiome diversity. So aiming to eat more than 25 different vegetables and fruits across the week is the best way to optimise gut health and give you the variety of nutrients that you need.
- Eat more plants as these are nutrient dense. Variety is key so go for the rainbow of colours.
- Eat cooked as well as raw vegetables.
- Keep hydrated to support elimination of toxins through your bowels as well as your kidneys.
- Eat lots of fibre such as: brown rice, wholegrains, nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, legumes, leafy greens, avocados, apples, pears etc.
- And foods containing polyphenols such as; berries, apples, apricots, raw cacao, broccoli, asparagus, green olives, potatoes, herbs and spices such as ginger, cumin, star anise, thyme, oregano.
- And inulin, which is a fibre that is a prebiotic and can also help to balance blood sugars like; leeks, asparagus, wild yams, yacon root, jeruselum artichoke, and dandelion greens.
- And fermented foods such as apple cider vinegar, kombucha, keffir, kimchi etc.
- Take a good quality probiotic with a high number of Live bacteria. Such as the OptiBac range we sell at The Natural Health Hub which has a product to suit different needs in supporting good digestive health.
Improve your gut in just two weeks
Recent studies has also shown that the diversity of your gut bacteria can be turned around in just two weeks with changes in your diet. So make these changes today and not only will you feel better but you will strengthen your resilience to fighting off infections.
For further advice on your gut health and help with a programme to improve your micro biome, you can make an appointment with Rhi Hepple by clicking here