There is a real mind-body connection when it comes to our health and the gut is no different. When they say ‘trust your gut’, it’s because our gut acts as a second brain, and can provide very useful information if we take the time to tune in and listen to what it has to say. If it's out of balance, you may feel anxious, depressed or tired. You may also suffer with memory problems, or brain fog.
We are what we eat – and we need to fuel our bodies carefully for optimum health and wellbeing. If we care not careful, what we choose to eat can also affect our immune system, leave us susceptible to diseases, and weight gain. Choosing the right food and choosing to love your gut, means your gut will love you back and keep you healthy.
Experts believe it is all related to our delicate microbiome; an integral, internal ecosystem within our gut, that protects us against germs, breaks down food to release energy and produces vitamins. This vast system can weigh up to 2kg (heavier than the average brain).
Our microbiome begins to develop from birth, and changes and adapts according to our environment and diet. An infant’s gut microbiome can be influenced by breast feeding, and science shows that formula fed babies are likely to have less ‘Friendly bacteria’.
Like any delicate ecosystem, the balance is affected by what comes in, and just like nutrients in a garden, a varied diet will help it blossom. Conversely, a dose of antibiotics will knock it for six, and it will need more love, care and nurturing to recover.
How to improve your gut microbiome
Taking care of your gut bacteria can help improve your health in several areas, but specifically it can help improve digestive symptoms, IBS, improve immunity, balance blood glucose levels and aid weight loss.
There are several factors that contribute to the health of your gut microbiome, including your environment, the amount of exercise and sleep you get, and of course, stress. But the number one factor is your diet.
Many of us eat the same foods each week, maybe because we are cooking for a family, or opting for a quick fix at the end of a long day, but this does not encourage balance, so here is a list of how to improve your gut bacteria.
1. Eat the right foods – eat a variety of healthy, non-processed foods. The more varied your diet, the more robust your microbiome becomes.
2. Remove sugar and processed foods from your diet – these are quickly absorbed into your small intestine, meaning your gut microbes become hungry and starts eating the cells that line the intestines (known as a leaky gut). Long term, this leads to inflammation and other autoimmune conditions.
3. Get your carbs from vegetables – and other low sugar fruits. Eating lots of leafy green vegetables will help diversify the gut bacteria. Eat probiotic foods such as radishes, garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus and turmeric. Be sure to get a dose of healthy fats and proteins with each meal as well.
4. Include fermented foods in your diet – these foods are high in prebiotics and include sauerkraut, kefir, pickles, and yogurt (not processed).
5. Eating plenty of vegetables is great way to support your gut microbiome. Try introducing a new vegetable each week, make the vegetable the hero of the plate, and try a veggie option at least once a week.
6. Focus on what you are adding into your diet, not what you are taking out. This will psychologically keep you on track and stops any faddy diet changes.
7. Relax – Try to eat in a calm state. Not always easy I know, but this simple act really aids digestion. Remove all stressors away from the dinner table, including stressful conversation. Take a few deep breaths before chewing, and chew slowly.
Learn to love your gut, look after the balance, and your gut will love you back.