How to optimise your gut health
It seems that the words ‘gut health’ are on everyone’s lips at the moment (as they guzzle probiotics and sing the praises of fermented foods). Yep, definitely the buzzwords of the year. But what does good gut health actually look like? And how do we attain it? We chatted to qualified nutritionist and gut health specialist Alyse Cocliff of An Apple A Day, and she’s shared her top tips to start #winning the gut health game.
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
We digest best when we rest. Taking the time to wind down, relax and enjoy your meal one mouthful at a time will boost digestion. Avoid eating in front of the TV or on the run, and take your time to chew your food properly. Adequately chewing your food will reduce the amount of work required by stomach acid, enzymes and bacterial fermentation further down the line, and may help offset symptoms such as bloating.
Make no mistake; eating a whole food diet is essential to optimising gut health. That means lots of fresh fruits, vegetables and in particular leafy greens as well as lentils and legumes. These foods are not only nutrient rich; they are also high in fibre – an essential nutrient for healthy bowel function.
Though not rocket science, water is incredibly important. A mix of fibre and water will ensure a healthy stool (and a healthy turnaround tume!). In my clinic, I like to ensure my patients are passing a motion at least once per day. When we’re dehydrated, our bowels tend to become a little sluggish and our stool or “waste product” is spending too much time on the inside, when it should be expelled. Avoid drinking water at meal times to ensure your digestive juices or digestive fire, is not ‘dampened’ in any way.
BOOST YOUR DIGESTIVE JUICES
Bitter foods like that of lemon juice, grapefruit and apple cider vinegar before a meal can help encourage the production of bile. Bile helps us break down fats into both fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins, which can then be absorbed into the body. Dandelion greens and ginger are also great options.
BONE BROTH OR GELATIN
Bone broth and gelatin, when made correctly, can contain a number of nutrients that may support the integrity of the gut walls. In order to ensure top quality, ensure both your broth and/or gelatin comes from either organic or 100% grass-fed animals. If you suffer from migraines, exercise caution around bone broth; bone broth is high in histamine and may trigger an episode.
Prebiotics are foods that can only be eaten by the “good bacteria” in our guts. Prebiotics help our “good guys” grow in strength, power and numbers, which can help them gain the upper hand (over the “bad guys”) in the gut. Amazing prebiotic foods include: garlic, leek, artichoke, white potato that have been cooked and cooled, lentils, chickpeas and snow peas. If you’re just starting to introduce prebiotics foods, go slowly as these bacteria can get a little carried away at first and produce some gas.
Once our digestive juices game is strong (and only then), consider introducing fermented foods. Probiotic foods are naturally fermented foods that contain probiotics, otherwise known as “healthy gut bacteria”. Examples include sauerkraut and kim-chi (and please, drink the juice left at the bottom of the jar), natural pot-set yoghurt and kefir.
If you’ve tried all of the above and are still suffering from gas, abdominal pain, and/or discomfort, you may require specialist advice; please speak to a qualified health practitioner.