The Importance of Good Gut Health
The gut is the cornerstone to good health and plays a key role in the way in which the different body systems communicate. Firstly it’s referred to as our second brain but in fact the gut sends a lot more information to the brain than the brain sends to your gut. This is because the gut has its own nervous system, involving a complex network of 100 million neurons that are embedded in the gut wall. This nervous system, known as the ‘enteric nervous system’ is largely regulated by the trillions of gut bacteria that reside in our digestive tract. These bugs influence the production of neurotransmitters; serotonin in particular, 90% of which is produced in our intestines. A healthy production of serotonin and other mood regulating neurotransmitters requires a healthy balance of gut bacteria. The bacteria in conjunction with the enzymes and stomach acids also play a key role in the way we break down and absorb our nutrients, store fat, regulate our blood sugar levels and influence our food choices. 80% of the immune system is also located in the gut, so if our bacteria is out of balance and the lining is impaired, this increases your risk of infection, inflammation and can trigger the disease process. There are many more ways in which the gut influences your overall health but it’s evident it plays a vital role.
Here are 10 ways to keep your gut healthy and you healthy.
Avoid Processed & Artificial Foods
Foods that have been highly processed and are devoid of nutrients are difficult for our body to digest and can trigger inflammation in the digestive tract. Not only does this disrupt the balance of your gut flora but also damages the lining of the gut.
Avoid Taking Medications Unnecessarily
Medications such as antibiotics, Panadol, the contraceptive pill are highly disruptive to our gut health as they can kill the good bacteria living in the digestive tract. Whilst in certain circumstances medication might be necessary, over prescribing has been a key driver of chronic diseases and health complications due to alterations of the gut flora overtime.
Drink Bone Broth
Each day we expose our gut to stressors that cause wear and tear to the gut lining. This is commonly known as leaky gut. The main stressors are medications, poor diet, gluten, bacteria imbalances and emotional stress. Gelatin is derived from the broken down collagen in the bones and provides the necessary structural components for healing and sealing the digestive tract, so that it's no longer leaky. One of my favourites is Undivided Food Co.’s Certified Organic Good Bones Bone Broth.
Eat Fermented Foods
Fermented foods such as kefir, yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha contain beneficial bacteria which help to keep the gut flora in healthy balance. Consuming these regularly keeps them thriving.
Eat Prebiotic Foods
Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onions, beetroot, asparagus, bananas, legumes & oats contain prebiotic fibres. These fibre’s feed the good bacteria helping them to thrive and outgrow the bad bacteria.
Avoid Mindless Snacking
When we stop eating and give our digestive system a break, our body starts to heal and repair itself. Try to avoid mindless snacking and leave at least 3 hours between your meals and 12 hours between breakfast and dinner. Practicing intermittent fasting or time restricted eating (e.g. 16/8 hour for 5:2 fast) has also shown to have very favourable effects on digestion. If you want to learn more, read my introductory guide to intermittent fasting.
Eat Paw Paw & Pineapple
These fruits contain the enzymes papain & bromelain respectively, which helps break down proteins. Perfect before a protein rich breakfast such as eggs to aid digestion.
Drink Elixirs e.g. Apple Cider Vinegar + Turmeric
Elixirs are drinks with medicinal properties that support your health. Apple cider vinegar stimulates hydrochloric acid production in the stomach, needed to break down food and support digestion and turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory. Liquefy Health Rooted Turmeric Elixer & Apple Cider Vinegar have combined these two powerful foods with lemon, dandelion, and cayenne pepper to keep the gut nourished and support detoxification.
Eat Bitter Foods
Such as grapefruit, radicchio, fennel, rocket & raw cacao to stimulate bile production. Bile breaks down fats & also removes toxic waste from the body.
Cook Foods High In Insoluble Fibre
Such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, green beans & onions. This breaks down the fibre into a more easily digestible form, causing less digestive upsets.