Listen to your gut
Chalking up a stomach ache to gas or bloating is common, but there’s a lot more to what’s happening in your gut. There’s more and more evidence that your gut bacteria and the health of your gut lining affect your mind, mood, and body in ways from minor (energy and skin) to major (chronic inflammation and disease).
The main functions of our gut is to absorb nutrients, digest the food we eat and rid our bodies of solid waste. The gut is home to a huge amount of bacteria know as - *Gut Microbiome and the majority of our bodily microbes live in the gut ( in the large intestine) as it is warm, moist, little oxygen and there is a supply of nutrients from the foods we eat.
A simple way to think about it is the bacteria lives in our gut and it needs us to feed it a variety of foods to allow it to help protect our bodies.
Our gut is often referred to as our bodies second brain as it controls a variety of bodily functions such as:
Controls blood sugar levels
Controls cholesterol levels
Can affect the amount of calories our bodies absorb and store
Healthy Immune system
Sends happy signals to our brain
Communicate with the nervous system
Impacts on our hormones
Already we can see why looking after our gut can benefit us in so many ways! Our lifestyle and diet can have a huge impact on our gut bacteria: stress, unhealthy eating habits, antibiotics, our mood, sleeping pattern and smoking can all negatively affect the type of gut bacteria we have. Those with healthier lifestyles and diets have more diverse gut microbes. Focus on being active too, the list of benefits of exercise are endless and it can help you on the inside with your digestive system and more.
Diet, Weight gain and the Gut
Gut bacteria helps break down the food we eat therefore the quality of our food is important rather than just the quantity. We need to feed our gut bacteria foods it likes to use it well. This is where Probiotics and Prebiotics come in. You may have heard or seen the saying ‘friendly bacteria’ being advertised with certain products and there are certain foods we can eat that contain this friendly bacteria.
Probiotics are live bacteria found in certain foods and supplements. They are a lively bunch that live in your tummy. Natural sources of probiotics can be found in: Yogurt, Kefir, Sauerkraut, Kimchi & Kombucha. You may not have heard of some of these food products as some are fairly new on the supermarket shelves. The process used to keep the probiotics alive is fermentation.
Prebiotics substances that come from foods (mostly fibre) that humans can’t digest. They are not digested or absorbed by the body instead they are eaten by the bacteria in the gut. You don’t have to look far for them as they are found in Fruit, Vegetables and legumes. However certain ones contain more than others such as: onions, garlic, cabbage, leeks, asparagus, bananas, beans, flax & chia seeds.
From a diet perspective one of the most important things our gut bacteria do isdi gest fibre as our bodies don’t have the right enzymes to do so. By doing this it keeps your gut healthy and regulates how hungry you feel. Aim for a balanced diet with high fibre foods such as Fruit, Veg, Nuts, Seeds, Whole Grains & Beans. It is recommended that we have 30g of fibre each day, a high fibre food is considered to have 6g of fibre per 100g - so check your labels.
Cost Effective Foods to Nourish Your Gut
Eating gut-nourishing foods doesn’t need to be expensive. As mentioned above, certain products appearing in the supermarkets such as Kefir, Kombucha, Sauerkraut etc will be pricey but feeding your gut the good stuff can also be affordable.
Variety is key and foods such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, brown rice, oats, potatoes, spinach, avocado, asparagus, bananas, onion, tomatoes, yoghurt and pineapple (to name a few) are all great gut foods and also affordable. Experiment with new foods and check what’s in season as they will usually be cheaper too. Always remember to drink plenty of water too!
You may now be wondering where to start with all this information. I have designed a gut health meal plan to help you include new recipes and ideas in your diet. Take care of your gut it looks after you from your belly to your brain.
*Gut Microbiome- Is made up of microorganisms which are a mix of bacteria, yeast & viruses together.
Grace is a Personal Trainer and Qualified Associate Nutritionist. She is currently taking a career break and travelling in South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand, but is sending us recipes and inspiration from wherever she is in the world. You can follow her travels on her Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/goodnessgrace_/