Your Ultimate Guide to a Healthy Gut
The ‘gut’ is a very sensitive organ; if you’re not digesting adequately, have an imbalance of bacteria or are eating foods that act as irritants, the gut lining can become inflamed and ‘leaky’. It is essential to restore balance before healing and repair can take place. Certain substances will aggravate a leaky gut by causing irritation to the delicate lining. The most important ones to avoid are alcohol, excess caffeine, cigarettes, drugs, processed food and food additives. To promote the good bacteria in your gut, reduce your intake of sugar and refined foods, which encourage the proliferation of bad bacteria. Eat plenty of fibre-rich fruits, vegetables, and live natural yoghurt, all of which help to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria. I would also recommend a good quality probiotic supplement to help restore a good balance. Probiotics have been shown to replenish healthy bacteria in the gut that can be removed by antibiotics.
We imagine that we digest our own food; however, the bacteria living in our guts do most of the work. If the bacteria aren’t happy, we don’t get fed! Probiotics can be found in yoghurts and fermented foods such as miso, and are available as powders and supplements. Be sure to check the label for live and active cultures as well as checking the expiry date and ensuring proper storage.
- Oliver’s Top Tips: Try fermented foods. Kimchee or sauerkraut, a cabbage prepared in its fermented form is a prebiotic (plant fibres), which helps the good bacteria return to your gut. It is also rich in glutamine.
- The preferred ‘fuel’ for the cells lining the ‘gut’ is an amino acid called glutamine. A generous supply of glutamine can help repair the lining of the small intestine and ensure that it stays healthy.
- Another key ingredient in gut healing and repair are omega 3 fats from fish, nut and seed oils, particularly golden flaxseed blended with warm water in the morning, which has been shown to help in calming an inflamed gut.
- Eat food! It may sound obvious, but here I mean substances that your body recognises and knows how to process. Our bodies don’t recognise artificial ingredients such as hydrogenated fat or artificial colours and can’t break them down. They are like unwanted wedding gifts from your relatives – you don’t know what to do with them, but can’t throw them away.Dietary fibre keeps your ‘gut’ and digestive system healthy by pushing other foods through your gut, and balancing flow. It also contributes to other processes, such as stabilising glucose and cholesterol levels. It is recommended that adults eat 25–35g of dietary fibre daily. Here are some ways to increase your dietary fibre intake:
- Dietary Fibre
- Choose hummus instead of cheese when snacking. While cheese has no fibre, a quarter cup of hummus, which is made from chickpeas and sesame seeds, provides nearly 4g.
- Swap a serving of meat for a serving of beans. Half a cup of beans has 5–8g of fibre, depending on the type of bean, while chicken and beef have none.
- Munch on nuts. Adding a quarter cup of nuts to you food can give you an extra 2–4g of fibre. Almonds are highest in fibre while peanuts and walnuts are also good sources.
- Eat your vegetables. You can boost your fibre intake by 4–8g by eating half a cup of cooked greens or a couple of raw carrots.
- Go with whole grains. A cup of brown rice provides about 4g of fibre whereas white only has 1g. Other whole grains like oats, oat bran and quinoa also provide lots of fibre.
- Drink one and a half litres of water a day to maintain a moist and soft gut rather than a dry, irritated one.If you find you are struggling with digestion and elimination, there are effective and natural bowel foods and herbs on hand. Foods like lecithin and psyllium husks, for example, promote the regular and easy passing of bowel motions by increasing fibre intake, which is essential to bowel health and maintaining bowel regularity. Always make sure to increase water intake sufficiently when you increase the amount of fibre in your diet. A few basic tips to remember for bowel regularity:
- If you are eating enough fibre but experiencing wind or straining, aloe vera can help soothe and calm your digestive system. Probiotics maintain a favourable balance of good bacteria in the colon for bowel health. Chlorella, a type of fresh-water algae, contains the richest source of chlorophyll of any known plant. Because of this, it has powerful cleansing properties and is an excellent tonic.
- We should be producing at least one “good” bowel motion every day: a well-formed, soft stool that can be passed easily without straining. Efficient elimination is just as important as optimal digestion. Irregular bowel movements or poor bowel health can impact our lives in more ways than just feelings of bloating, fullness, wind and general discomfort. A sluggish bowel results in faecal matter remaining in the intestines for longer than necessary, which leads to excess fermentation, which in turn creates gas or bloating. Gas and bloating are indications that you are not digesting your food adequately. The first vital stage of digestion is to chew your food thoroughly. You should aim to reduce a mouthful of food to liquid mush before you swallow. This allows the digestive enzymes a greater surface area to work and do their job properly. Additionally, toxins that should be passed with the stool are reabsorbed back into the bloodstream, which places extra strain on the cleansing organs (predominately the liver), and compromises their ability to function effectively. A poorly functioning liver can contribute to poor digestion, feelings of sluggishness, lethargy, weight gain and difficulty in losing weight. If that isn’t enough incentive to start upping your fibre intake, this may be the last push you need: poor liver function can also result in skin blemishes and breakouts. Our skin, appearance, energy and vitality are a reflection of our inner digestive system.
- Eat plenty of fibre
- Drink plenty of water
- Be active, love your exercise
- Never ignore the urge
- And try and stay calm and positive about life
- Remember—mind over matter