A Beginner’s Guide to Gut Health: Part 3

By now, you should be able to tell your pre from your probiotics, if you’ve given Part 1 and Part 2 a read.

In Part 3, we will bring everything together and provide some practical guidance on how you can support your gut health.

Firstly, before improving your gut health, you need to be able to identify if your gut is unhealthy. An unhealthy or unbalanced gut can show itself in many ways. If you have concerns, you should speak to your GP who will help diagnose you and give tailored advice on how to try and rectify it. 

Some common signs include bloating, stomach pain,  gas, constipation, diarrhoea and food intolerances. These things can all have many other causes. As a result, you should always speak to a health professional if you have symptoms and you don’t know why.

How can I support optimal gut health?

Countless products on the market claim they’ll help you get a healthy gut, but ultimately, the first port of call should be to focus on making healthy lifestyle changes to improve your gut health, and in turn the wellbeing of your whole body. You may have heard the term ‘you can’t out-train a bad diet’, well, you can’t out-supplement a poor lifestyle

These are our top tips for protecting the health of your gut microbiome:

1. Eat more ‘whole’ foods

Despite what the internet says, there’s no confirmed ‘gut health diet’. What is known is that healthy, whole foods feed the good bacteria in your gut.

As part of this, aim to cut back on ultra-processed foods as much as possible. These are generally high in salt, sugar, fat and additives, and when eaten in excess, can disrupt the balance of the gut microbiome by out-competing the ‘good’ gut bacteria for the ‘bad’ gut bacteria.

2. Try getting more fibre into your diet

Beneficial SCFAs are produced from complex carbohydrates and fibre.  We may not be able to digest fibre, but it is what feeds your gut bacteria. This in turn produces these beneficial compounds for you. Most people will therefore benefit from an increase in fiber intake. The recommendation is 30 g per day, but research suggests in the UK we only get about two-thirds of that. Increasing your fibre intake seems like an easy win!

You can source fibre from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, pulses (beans, lentils, chickpeas), nuts and seeds.

Try some of these out:

  • Choose a high-fibre breakfast. Include oats, or granola or opt for toast with wholemeal bread. Why not add some fruits to your breakfast bowl as well.
  • Include plenty of vegetables with meals, either as a side dish or added to sauces, stews or curries. 
  • Snack on fruit, dried fruit, crudites, nuts and seeds. If possible leave the skin on.
  • Add pulses like beans, lentils or chickpeas to stews, curries and salads.
  • Regularly swap pasta and white rice for wholemeal pasta, brown rice, and grains, such as quinoa. 

3. Eat mindfully

Mindful eating is the act of eating while being in a state of non-judgmental awareness, shifting one’s attention to the food and mind-body connection.

It is all too common these days to eat unconsciously due to the fast-paced nature of life. Often, because we are distracted, we only chew food a few times. This can then impact our digestive function, causing bloating, difficulties with bowel movements, undigested food in the stool, abdominal pain, heartburn or acid reflux.

Taking time to smell and look at our food before eating encourages the body to start producing digestive enzymes, so mindful eating helps prepare the gut for an incoming meal and optimises digestion. It also ensures that we are chewing our food properly, which can help to counteract the negative effects listed above.

Try to eat without distractions – yes that means without browsing Instagram, your emails or watching the tv!

4. Take care of your overall well-being

As we have seen our mental state impacts our physical health in part through our microbiome. Making sure you’re getting enough sleep, managing stress levels appropriately and exercising regularly all have a beneficial impact on our gut flora.

Although when you’re busy, these sorts of things can fall by the wayside, time-blocking some ‘me’ time can be helpful. Use this time wisely, but make sure it is for something that you will benefit from – whether that’s exercise, calling a friend or just listening to a podcast.

Are there any supplements or medications that can promote gut health?

Probiotics are often considered the holy grail when it comes to gut health ‘fixes’. Following the increased interest in gut health, the market for probiotics has exploded.

As we discussed in Part 1, when consumed, probiotics compete with any potentially harmful bacteria in the gut for space and food. This reduces the amount of harmful bacteria that reside there. 

However, different probiotic supplements contain different bacterial strains. These strains specialise in different functions in your gut and can have vastly different effects on your body. Each microbiome is so different and so often, unless you have tested your microbiome or you have researched which may be best for your symptoms, you may not be taking a supplement which will be helpful for you and your unique health needs.

In general, focussing on a combination of the tips we have outlined, will provide your gut with valuable support to do its thing! However, it is important to note, that as with many areas of health and nutrition, there is not one right approach. Due to the high variability between two people’s gut microbiomes, it may take a little trial and error to find out what works for you. 

Fresh Fitness Food provides personalised meal plans delivered straight to your door, ensuring not only that you have the nutrients you need to manage your stress levels, but also that you have the time usually spent shopping, cooking and washing up, to engage in your favourite stress-reducing activity.

Order today and start smashing your goals with personalised nutrition!

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Published by Georgia Chilton

In her teenage years, a love of food and rowing led Georgia into this field as she wanted to know how to optimise performance through nutrition. With a BSc in Nutrition and an MSc in Sports and Exercise Nutrition, she has the skill set to help you track towards your goals and maximise your potential.

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