6 Ways to Start Improving Your Gut Health Today
Let’s begin with what a healthy gut is comprised of.
Your gut flora consists of trillions of different bacteria that play an important role in your immune system and digestion. The gut flora, also known as intestinal microbiota, is the community of three main bacterial strands called Lactobacilli, E. Coli, and Bifidobacterium. The ‘big three’ have a vast array of sub strain organisms which all play an important part in digestion and day-to-day health and wellness. An article by Juliette Steen for HUFFPOST outlines the way you can improve your overall gut health and, in turn, improve your life. But, in order to start improving gut health, we must first understand how an imbalance in gastrointestinal microbials can affect us and which lifestyle choices are creating this imbalance. ‘6 Ways to Start Improving Your Gut Health Today’ states that simple lifestyle choices that are made every day can significantly impact our gut health and therefore impact other aspects of health that you may not realize are connected.
Steen spoke with practicing dietician Chloe McLeod in order to run through the basic changes that can be made to optimize gut health. ‘Poor diet, alcohol and stress can impact your gut’, writes Steen, as McLeod then adds how easy it is to forget that poor gut health can determine things such as mental health, weight and other medical conditions.
If you are showing symptoms such as flatulence, diarrhoea, bloating or constipation… your gut is probably looking for some T.L.C. McLeod goes on to add that with good gut health, "you find you feel better in general -- better mood, more energy, a healthy weight and not feeling fatigued.”
If you’re wondering what it takes to have bad gut health, here are the most common causes: a poor diet of high fat intake, excessive alcohol, disregarding intolerances to specific foods, some medications, and stress.
The best part of having this information at hand is that you can now start swapping out the old bad habits and nourishing yourself with the simple steps that you’ll thank yourself for.
Steen recommends a balanced diet as key to a happier gut as well as these other useful tips:
1. Eat more vegetables
"Vegetables provide our body with the nutrients it needs on a day-to-day basis and help to maintain general health," McLeod said.
"They also provide fibre to keep the gut healthy and help our body’s systems run more effectively."
2. Focus on fibre
Speaking of fibre in veggies, aim to increase overall fibre content, especially if your intake of fruit, vegetables and legumes is low.
"Fibre can provide a huge variety of compounds and nutrients that will help improve gut health. The fibre is in whole grains, fruit, veggies, nuts and legumes," McLeod explained.
"This is why a lot of the time people focus on a plant-based diet for gut health, as many of the plant-based foods are great for gut health in so many different ways."
3. Eat plenty of prebiotic-rich foods
When we think of gut health, probiotics are the first thing to spring to mind. But prebiotics, a type of non-digestible fibre, are just as important.
"When prebiotic foods are digested they provide food for the healthy bacteria which are found in our gut, so include things like bananas, onion, garlic, veggies (Brussels sprouts and broccoli), whole grains and other fruits," McLeod said.
4. Eat more probiotic-rich foods
Rather than choosing probiotic supplements as your first line of defence for gut health, McLeod recommends opting first for whole foods rich in probiotics.
"Probiotic supplements can certainly help and play a role, but it's such an emerging area that we don't know everything about them," McLeod said.
"Different types of probiotics can have different impacts on gut health. For example, some are targeted to eczema, some are better for mental health."
Before taking a probiotic supplement, speak to your GP to find the right supplement for you.
"It's a good idea to not take just any and hope it will fix anything -- they all have different actions. Some people also don't tolerate probiotic supplements too well.
"Aim to get probiotics from your food. Include foods which naturally contain probiotics, such as yoghurt and fermented foods (miso, sauerkraut, kimchi)."
5. Drink wisely
As alcohol can negatively affect gut health, reduce your overall intake of alcohol and remember to drink more water.
"Don't forget about water -- stay well hydrated and drink less alcohol," McLeod said.
6. Reduce junk food intake
Unfortunately, your gut doesn't like processed, fatty, sugary foods (aka a standard Western diet), even if you do. McLeod recommends reducing your intake of junk foods like soft drink, lollies, biscuits, chips and pizza, and make healthier alternatives instead.”
GUT Health Testing
We offer Gastrointestinal Tract tests that each evaluate the overall health of the gut.
The Complete Digestive Stool Analysis is a great way to start gaining overall knowledge on your patients’ digestive tracts and assist them in reaching their optimal health and wellness goals.
The Complete Digestive Stool Analysis (CDSA) is available in five different levels; each tailored to more specific analysis. The CDSAs test bacteriology, mycology (yeasts), parasitology, a 3-day parasitology (available only in levels 4 & 5), short chain fatty acids, biochemical markers (pancreatic elastase, valerate/isobutyrate), and sensitivities (bacteria/yeasts).
The CDSA provides an overview of the components of digestion, absorption, intestinal function and microbial flora, as well as identifying pathogenic bacteria, parasites and yeasts.
Poor digestive function and imbalanced gut flora may play a crucial role in the underlying cause of a number of health conditions. Symptoms such as constipation, diarrhoea, flatulence, bloating, abdominal discomfort and bad breath are all indicative of poor gut function.
To order our functional pathology kit or for more information, please call us 1300 55 44 80.
Australian Doctor, Jocelyn Wright. 2017. Be Bold and Diagnose IBS Early, GPs Urged. [ONLINE]
Available at: https://www.australiandoctor.com.au/news/be-bold-and-diagnose-ibs-early-gps-urged. [Accessed 4 October 2017].