I often get asked the question “is gut health important?”
The short answer is yes, it is important and does contribute to your overall health and wellbeing. Gut health can influence the way you feel, your chances of developing a lifestyle illness such as bowel cancer and your mental health. Having good gut health can assist in keeping you regular on the toilet too! For those with Endo belly, your irritable bowel symptoms can be affected by your Gut Health and what you eat.
With all this in mind, it is alarming to note that 1 in 2 Australians experience gut health issues.
However, before you get too disheartened there are ways you can improve your gut health by incorporating 4 simple habits into your life.
The best way to help improve your gut health is through healthy eating and providing your gut with the foods it needs to flourish.
You may have heard of probiotics, but have you heard of prebiotics? Prebiotics are what your healthy gut bacteria use as food. You do not need to take special tablets or formulas to get your prebiotics as many foods contain natural prebiotics. Having a wide range of whole grain and fibre rich plant-based foods including a variety of fruits, vegetables, fresh herbs, nuts, seed, legumes, and whole grain breads, pasta, & rice is the best way to get your prebiotics and feed your gut.
The aim is to have 30 different plant foods in your diet each week. Having a wide range of these foods will give you all the prebiotics you need.
Legumes are great prebiotics, and while some people don’t tolerate these in large portions, choosing small amounts such as a quarter to half a cup in meals or salads, will make your gut very happy!
Consuming a healthy diet every day is a fantastic way to promote good gut health. A healthy diet includes consuming the following each day:
If you are looking for natural probiotics, then including a yoghurt or kefir with probiotics is a great way to get some dairy into your diet.
Completing at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week will help to increase the blood flow to your digestive muscles and can help to reduce constipation. There is also research to suggest that exercise can have a positive effect on the bacteria in your gut. Exercise is also good for your mental health and can also help you sleep better at night.
We have all have had the shared experience of having a bad night’s sleep and the next day being a ‘write off’ for eating well and exercising, due to lack of energy. Therefore, getting enough sleep is essential for good gut health and proper digestion.
Did you know you have your very own internal highway? Your brain and your gut talk to each other (and have great conversations) through what is known as the ‘gut-brain axis’. The best way to describe this is when you have an important presentation or exam, sometimes the anxiety you may feel starts to ‘churn’ your insides, this is how the gut-brain axis works. Therefore, what you eat can affect this communication, how you are feeling and your mental wellbeing.
Stress over long periods can also lead to issues with your bowels including constipation, diarrhoea, or a mix of both. Some time for self-care each day can help you to clear your mind and focus on what is important to you.
Overall if you can aim to eat well most days, get some regular exercise in, have some ‘me’ time, and aim to get a good night’s sleep, you are well on your way to a healthy gut and therefore a healthy you.
If you would like more information on how to incorporate more plant derived foods into your diet, or help to make your gut happy, I am your gut guru dietitian and I am more than happy to help. Please call the Ballarat Women’s Clinic on (03) 5332 9940, to book an appointment to see Ballarat Women’s Clinic’s Dietitian Rachel Jeffery.
Written by Dietitian Rachel Jeffery
We work and live on Wadawarrung land. We acknowledge Elders, past present and emerging.
Together with Brigid Moloney, we have put together a team of health professionals with expert knowledge to care for women at every stage of life. Welcome to the Ballarat Women's Clinic.