An out-of-whack gut does more than make you feel bloated and sluggish. Gastrointestinal discomfort and distress is very common, but that doesn’t mean it’s normal.
Many experts believe that the study of the gut microbiome, the colonies of bacteria in our GI tracts, will lead us to isolate different strains for specific benefits. Amazing!
A world where patients presenting with various health conditions have a stool sample tested and the appropriate probiotic strain prescribed may not be far away.
There is an exciting body of science that tells us that our gut biota (or the ecosystem of our gut) and the integrity of our gut wall controls much of the functioning of our entire bodies. Studies have linked the balance of our gut bacteria to:
- Immunity (good bacteria help keep the nastier pathogens at bay)
- brain health
- optimal absorption of nutrients.
It’s all a little overwhelming, so here are5 simple things you can do today (and forever) for a happier tummy.
1) Pop a probiotic
I like BioCeuticals Ultrabiotic 45. I wrote about what to look out for when picking a probiotic here. Cliff notes: you want a multi-strain probiotic with billions not millions CFUs. The best place to start your search is the fridge at your pharmacy. Pop a probiotic all year round to avoid antibiotics when cold season strikes.
2) Eat fermented foods
Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi promote the growth of healthy bugs along the GI tract to restore bacterial balance. Try our kimchi recipe, or your can stock up at a healthfood store if the fermenting time is a bit much for you. Good quality unsweetened yoghurt is also great.
3) Feed your healthy bacteria with prebiotics
Probiotics get all the attention in any conversation about gut health, but prebiotics are important too. They feed the probiotics, and are in everyday foods like onion, garlic, bananas, chickpeas and lentils. If you eat bread, a good quality rye bread is a great prebiotic option. I’ve also recently added to my morning routine slippery elm powder, which is high in soluble fibre that probiotics love. Just mix a teaspoon of slippery elm powder with a little water to form a paste, shoot it down (it’s not delicious) and follow with a big glass of water.
4) Limit processed foods
Booze, sugar, and all the usual suspects can upset the delicate balance in the gut. Nothing fancy here: just stick to healthy wholefoods and fill half your plate with plants at every meal. The odd treat won’t kill you or mess up your gut health, but keep it a treat.
5) Slow down
The digestive process starts in your mouth, so do the job properly and actually chew your food. Taking your time is not just important to eating more mindfully and avoiding a pig out, it’s also important for our digestion.
It might feel a bit awkward at first, but practise being conscious about how quickly you’re eating, not shoveling. I come from a family of four hungry boys so I am programmed to eat quickly too. I’m working on it!
6) Chill out
Stress is a huge factor in the health of our guts. We all need to get in the habit of having a laundry list to turn to of actions to take when we’re stressed. Managing your stress is just as important as food, exercise, and sleep, and it impacts them all.
An important part of reducing your stress is getting in 7 hours of quality sleep. Rest really is magical! Check out my tips for better sleep and more of it here.