Looking after your gut shouldn’t be complicated. Early in school we learned that our gut is responsible for three main things; digestion, nutrient absoprtion and waste excretion. However science is continually evolving and now we know a lot more about this fascinating organ. We know for example that 70% of our immune cells are located in the gut thereby playing a huge role in protecting us from illnesses and diseases. We also know that there is a lot of communication happening between our brain and our gut through the gut-brain axis. One of the dysfunctioning of this could be developing IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
We cannot talk about gut health without mentioning the most important part of it, which is the gut microbiota. The trillions of microorganisms that help the gut perform all the above mentioned tasks plus more.
We see that there is a lot happening in our gut and I believe it plays a key part in our overall health, so we can all agree that it’s crucial to learn to look after it.
Here are my top 5 tips for you:
- Eat lots of fibre
Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that we cannot digest, only in the large intestine with the help of our gut microbes. It can be found in fruits and vegetables, wholegrains and pulses as well as nuts and seeds. We should aim to have 30 grams of fibre a day, however statistics show that on a population level we ingest only around 15 grammys per day. Fibre is fueling the gut microbiota to do their jobs. If our diet is lacking fibre, the inner community cannot work so well.
- Five portion of vegetables or fruits a day
By applying this on your life you get to increase your fibre intake as well as the intake of other plant chemicals that are beneficial for our gut called polyphenols. Similarly to fibre we cannot digest them, but the gut microbiota can, so it’s precious food for them. We’ve got to remember, if they are happy, they will do their job right and keep us happy.
- Try to include 30 different species of plants in your weekly diet
We know from research that diversity is key. The more varied your diet is, the more you're likely to boost the diversity of the trillions of gut microbes you have. Essentially, the more diverse your microbes are, the more skills they have, and the more they can look after you. Thirty might sound like a lot, but it could come from 6 main plant food groups (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, pulses & beans, herbs and spices). The onion you chop into your stew counts, or the canned tomato sauce and basil you add to your pasta.
- Fermented foods for good
Fermented foods have been around for thousands of years. Originally it was used to enhance the preservation of certain foods, but now we know that fermented foods also carry health benefits such as stronger immunity or better digestion. They do it through several means. One is that they contain probiotics bacteria just like the ones in our guts, secondly they are loaded with beneficial chemicals and enzymes, not to mention how flavoursome they are. Available fermented foods in Hungary are live yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, fermented cucumber or sourdough bread. More fermented food from around the world are kombucha (fermented tea), kimchi (asian fermented veggies) or fermented soy products such as natto, miso or tempeh.
- Manage stress and anxiety
My last tip for you is not nutrition related however equally important. We talked about how the gut can communicate with our brain through the gut-brain axis and vice-versa. Stress and anxiety can impact our bowel habits, which can explain why some people struggle to poop when they’re stressed while for some, stress can trigger diarrhoea. Either way we’ve got to learn to cope with it. Meditation and yoga have been shown to be effective ways to help people take back control of their gut health within a couple of months. They cost nothing and as little as 10 mins sitting could make a huge impact.
These are my five top tips when it comes to gut health. Some might find it too simple, but the truth is that healthy living is actually not as complicated as some people say it is. All of the five tips are budget friendly and easy to implement in our everyday life, so let’s get to it.