On the 29th May it’s World Digestive Health Day.
Did you know digestive/gut health has a huge impact on your overall health?
A healthy gut contributes to a strong immune system, heart health, brain health, improved mood, healthy sleep, and effective digestion, and it may help prevent some cancers and autoimmune diseases.
The gut is the place where we sample and interact with the outside world. Your gut is the busiest border control you can ever imagine and as such, it has to have an incredible array of defences (notably friendly bacteria) and immune proteins to defend off bad bacteria and viruses etc. The gut is also able to break down food and decide what to take it into the body for use.
If any of these processes or departments are not working correctly, it can result in gut problems which lead not only to poor gut health but can also result in systemic health issues.
Hippocrates said in 2000BC “death begins in the gut”. Science is starting to show that this is partly correct.
It’s incredibly important to look after your gut health as much as possible. I’d like to help but giving you 5 simple ways to improve your gut health.
5 Key Ways To Improve Your Gut Health:
- Eat more plants:
Evidence continues to show that a diet high in plant foods supplies food to feed our gut bacteria. Given that humans are more bacterial cells than human cells, and most of these bacteria (about 2lbs in weight) reside in our gut, we need to feed them to keep them happy. If we have happy bacteria they produce molecules that help us live healthier. Plant foods contain lots of phyto-chemicals (which give plant foods their different colours and hence the term ‘eat a rainbow of colours’). These chemicals help feed the gut bacteria but also prevent the immune system in the gut from overreacting and causing trouble. Phytochemicals also talk to our genes and help activate or deactivate them providing increased health. So you should always be looking to eat a rainbow of colours on a daily basis.
- Less processed foods:
Whole foods are one of the key aspects that drives good digestion. It is highly recommended to ensure the foods you eat are as unprocessed as possible. High consumption of ultra-processed food can change the gut microbiota and lead to inflammation.
- Use a prebiotic and probiotic if you are not getting enough plant foods:
Your gut microbiome is fed by prebiotics, which can be found mostly in plant foods, however can be supplemented. Our favourite prebiotic supplement is PHGG from Invivo Therapeutics.
Probiotics are also great for gut health. They are live bacteria which act like policemen controlling trouble in the gut and helping your own microbiome recover. We are moving into a world where strain specific probiotics need to be used for different purposes and conditions. One examples is Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG from Culturelle.
We are now also finding that healthy gut bacteria produce metabolites called postbiotics. One of these is called Butyrate. Butyrate has been found to enhance gut health, but also help reduce brain inflammation.
If you are interested in an individualised medicine approach, you may be interested our functional medicine pathway.
- Increase fibre in your diet
Fibre is increasingly being seen as a major contributor to the gut and systemic health, so having a diet high in fibre (which includes prebiotic fibre) is a great to include. If you are working to achieve a rainbow of colours daily, then your fibre intake should be more than adequate.
Fibre is not for you, it’s for your bacteria. Feed them the right stuff so they can look after you.
- Exercise regularly and look to reduce stress
A study found that exercise promotes the growth of bacteria which produce the fatty acid, butyrate. Butyrate can promote repair of the gut lining and reduce inflammation. Exercise also helps to improve metabolic function. Another key to better digestion is regular stress management. Reducing stress can lower inflammation in the gut and can help to maintain a healthy gut.
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