Taking good care of your gut is one of the easiest, most effective things you can do for your overall health.
A strong gut microbiome (the collective name for the community of bacteria and other microbes living in your gut) will have you feeling energetic and happy in the belly.
The festive season is usually accompanied by a little more eating and drinking than usual (which is totally fine – it’s important to enjoy every aspect of the holidays)! This makes now a great time to focus on the health of your gut if you do feel like it’s been thrown off balance with too much alcohol, processed foods or even just overeating, all of which can influence your gut microbiota composition.
The good news is that with the few conscious everyday changes such as those mentioned below, you can get your gut microbiome back to its optimal state to help you start the year off feeling your best!
1. Get plenty of probiotics in your diet
Probiotics are the living ‘good’ bacteria in your gut which play a critical role in many different areas of your health (it’s crazy that they are only now starting to get the attention they deserve). For instance, did you know that the healthier the bacteria in your gut are, the better your mood is likely to be? The same goes for your immunity, your sleep, your skin, and the balance of yeast in your body – just to name a few of the many aspects of health your microbiome affects.
To receive the maximum benefit, we recommend incorporating probiotic foods into your diet everyday! The best food sources of probiotics include: kombucha, yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, tempeh and miso.
2. Feed your probiotics with prebiotics
If you want your probiotics to thrive and survive, they also need fuel (just like us), so you need to feed them properly. Prebiotics are essentially the food for your probiotics. Prebiotics are a type of fibre that are not digested in your small intestine (where carbs, protein and fats are digested and absorbed), meaning they travel all the way through to your large intestine. This is where your good gut bacteria live, and they are able to feed on and digest the prebiotics.
Before you go out and buy expensive prebiotic supplements, remember that many foods and drinks naturally contain them. The best food sources of prebiotics include: garlic, onions, asparagus, artichokes, legumes (e.g. chickpeas and lentils), leeks, oats and bananas.
3. Eat more fibre
Fibre is a crucial part of a healthy diet that often gets overlooked. Fibre helps to create an environment that your gut bacteria can flourish in. Fibre ensures healthy digestion of food and keeps things moving along your digestive tract. The more fibre that is in your diet, the more productive an environment your gut becomes – meaning your gut can work efficiently to maintain your immune system and keep your body functioning optimally.
There are a range of different fibres you want to eat for good gut health (e.g. soluble fibre, insoluble fibre, resistant starch, prebiotics) and each of these have unique and important effects on health. Foods particularly high in fibre include: fruits, vegetables, oats, rice, legumes, wholegrain bread and nuts.
4. Stay hydrated
We all know drinking water is good for you – however, did you know it’s particularly important for your gut? Drinking plenty of water has been shown to have a beneficial effect on the mucosal lining of the gut, as well as on the balance of good bacteria in the gut. To top it all off, water is important for maintaining regular bowel movement and healthy digestion for happy tummies!
5. Avoid unnecessary antibiotics
Antibiotics kill infection-causing bacteria, but they also kill other bacteria in your digestive tract, including your ‘good’ bacteria. This can increase susceptibility to infections and decrease the diversity of bacteria in the gut. While this is definitely a risk worth taking if you have a bacterial infection, if you are suffering from a virus like the common cold, antibiotics won’t make you better and will kill off your helpful, ‘good’ bacteria. If you are required to undergo a course of antibiotics, be sure to supplement this with loads of foods high in probiotics and prebiotics to help replenish and look after your gut bacteria.
Remember that if given the chance, your gut bacteria will naturally work towards balance and maintaining your health, so if you incorporate just a few of these suggestions, you’re already doing a great job for your health!
Anna and Alex are a pair of no-nonsense dietitians who founded The Biting Truth because they believed people deserve the truth when it comes to nutrition. There are plenty of fads in the world, eat this – don’t eat that. The truth is, you can eat ALL kinds of foods and still be healthy and fit. They use simple science to empower individuals to make better food and health choices. They are scientists and skeptics who love exposing nutritional myths and helping people separate science from pseudoscience.
They love educating people about nutrition and work with a range of businesses and organisations to do so! To read more about their services, click here.