Have you ever taken a moment or two to think about your gut health? The science is still very new, but the world of gut health is a hugely exciting frontier. With digestive issues on the rise due to processed foods, over sanitisation and more sedentary lifestyles, we really need to step up and listen.
We chat to The Gut Stuff who are on a mission to bring awareness of all the interesting stats and information about our guts. Founded by Lisa and Alana Macfarlane and India Wardrop, they’ve found (working alongside the Twin Research department at King's College, London) that even if you share 100% DNA with another, your guts will have different microbiota which explains why bodies behave so differently to each other.
In a nutshell: Not all diets and lifestyles are right for everyone. You need to listen, learn and love your body - both inside and out - to find what really works to your digestive health’s benefit.
Start listening to your gut and check out The Gut Stuff’s top tips on managing the health of your gut below:
The Gut Stuff: Top tips on managing your gut health
Gut health is linked to pretty much everything including mental health, heart health and immunology. And microbiomes could be new key to how we look at, study and commercialise health and wellbeing.
If we as identical twins have exactly the same DNA and only 30-40% the same microbiome in our digestive system, this proves everyone is unique and we’re going to have to start thinking critically for ourselves what we put in our bodies.
What works for your friends/a certain influencer or even your mum might not work for you, so at The Gut Stuff we want to banish the fads and nonsense... and empower YOU to make your own decisions. Trust your gut and all!
Whilst the science is still catching up and we’re still figuring it all out, there are some general tips that are super simple that you can try to improve your gut health (clue: they aren’t about restriction and food intolerance tests that don’t work!).
Top tips on managing your gut health
Chew, chew & chew again:
Do you chew enough? What happens in your mouth is a fundamental part of digestion. Chewing mechanically breaks down your food into smaller pieces and the time you spend chewing allows the digestive enzymes in your mouth to further breakdown your food.
You need to chew your food 20-30 times before you swallow to make sure it is properly broken down to make less work for your gut and your gut bugs.
Science now shows that stress, anxiety and depression can have a direct affect on your microbiome and how well your gut works - and vice versa! Did you know there is a neural and physical connection that runs from your brain all the way through to your gut? This is the Vagus nerve, it’s like the M25 with lots of lanes running in both directions to allow signals to travel from brain to gut and gut to brain, clever, huh?!
FYI this amazing connection is called the gut-brain-axis! It’s the reason you feel butterflies in stomach or might get a dicky tummy when you are stressed. To help manage stress and/or anxiety, why not give some different techniques a go and see what works for you. Try deep breathing, yoga, mindfulness, mediation or just get physical (in the gym, park or wherever as long as your heart gets pumping and your endorphins racing).
Check-out more of MoveGB's stress management tips with Joanna Konstantopoulou, an experienced registered practitioner psychologist specialising in Health Psychology and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.
You have trillions of bacteria (over a thousand different species!) in your gut and they all thrive on different foods, so variety really is key to have. Aim to get at least 30 different plant based foods in your diet a week.
Giving your gut and your gut bugs a little break from digesting food can really help keep your gut happy. Try giving yourself 12 hours between your last meal of the day and first meal the next day – we try 8pm – 8am but do what works for you.
Did you know you need 30g of fibre per day? Most of us aren’t getting nearly enough of our daily fibre intake - it can have astounding effects on your gut health!
But what is it? Fibre is the unsung hero of the food world. Dietary fibre (or roughage, as your relatives may have called it) is the component of plant-based foods that cannot be digested. Think of fibre as the food for your gut bugs. Your gut bugs ferment this and produce more food for the cells in your gut.
Fibre also helps increase the bulk and softness of your poo, which helps keep you regular, which we all know is super important. Load up on veggies and fruits in their whole forms, include skins where edible (not kiwi’s, ew), and include wholegrains, nuts, seeds and legumes.
Limit processed foods:
To put it simply, they can seriously impact the balance of your gut bugs, making your gut a more favourable environment for those less helpful gut bugs.
It may be hard when your hungover, tired or poorly and all you want to do is order a greasy burger, but if you suffer from gut issues then just remember that you may pay for it later.
And our biggest tip?? Keep a GUT diary….
This is NOT a stand-alone food diary for calorie counting but to monitor what you’re eating, how you are feeling before and after (mentally and physically), your poops and how much you are moving to help you “tune in” to your body.
Use a diary to spot patterns. We all live such fast-past lives - when was the last time you asked yourself ‘how am I feeling today?’. The key to uncovering your gut issues and understanding what’s happening in there is by understanding and listening to your body. Experiment, try taking things out of your diet and lifestyle, then put them back in and see what happens!
If you do have gut symptoms, you can take your ready-made diary to a nutritionist/dietician/GP (we’re sure they will thank you for it!).
So what are you waiting for? Grab your pen and GUT started. We’ve made a really comprehensive Gut diary with lots of expert advice which you can check out. If you have a printer, get a hold of this downloadable gut tracking print-out so you can get started ASAP!
Find out more about The Gut Stuff and their mission - and get social with them!