Kombucha, kimchi and kiwis, oh my! The advice saturating the market on gut health can be contradictory, confusing and expensive– so we’re here to clear it up for you. Read on for everything you need to know about your gut.
Our gut health revolves around one thing: the gut microbiome. This complex structure is made up of trillions of bacteria which can make or break your gut health – and your whole body’s health. To get these microbes to work to your benefit, you’ll need to tip the balance in favour of the good gut bacteria. These help to protect the stomach lining, strengthen immunity and prevent chronic inflammation.
The foods you put on your plate are integral in shaping the flora living in your gut. But it’s not just about what you eat, it’s also about what you don’t eat – diets high in trans fats and alcohol can lead to a disruption of this system. One of the biggest offenders is sugar – here’s why. Diets high in sugar can lead to changes to the gut bacteria, with research finding it can lower microbial diversity, which puts us at risk for infection.
Studies have found it causes higher levels of Proteobacteria, which is an indicator of an unbalanced microbiome, known as dysbiosis. This then skyrockets our risk for metabolic disfunction, autoimmune conditions and a host of dangerous conditions. But here’s why this is a problem – Aussies are consuming around 15 teaspoons of added sugar per day, which is more than double the 6-teaspoon recommendation from the World Health Organisation. With a whopping 9 teaspoons of sugar in a can of coke, it’s pretty easy to soar past the limit before we’ve even had lunch. It’s also why it’s so easy for us to tip the balance of our gut flora into chaos.
Our second brain – unpacking the gut-brain link
We’ve long relied on our guts to guide us – remember those times when you had a bad gut feeling about a situation? Or when you decided to “go with your gut” to make a decision? Well, it turns out our gut is responsible for a lot more functions than we know. The gut has been referred to as our “second brain”, and for good reason. The nervous system uses those same neurotransmitters as our brain, meaning these 2 parts of the bodies are linked more closely than previously thought. In fact, researchers believed people with digestive issues or conditions like irritable bowel syndrome were made worse by anxiety – only to find out that it’s often the reverse: the gut can actually harm our mental health. Its effects extend to our entire bodies, with some of conditions caused by poor gut health including the following:
- Heart disease
- Fatty liver disease
- Autoimmune conditions
- Mental health conditions like depression and anxiety
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
There are a few elements that are essential to preventing these conditions – or reducing the severity of symptoms if you’re already struggling with any of the above.
Get your dose of probiotics
Probiotics provide the body with beneficial bacteria, which play an important role in building up a healthy gut. Research shows the connection between what we eat and how often we pick up infections, with one study revealing the gut microbiome regulates the immune response to pathogens.
One way to get your microbiome back in order is by loading up on good bacteria which strengthens the gut lining and improves our digestion – and probiotic-rich foods are your ticket. Fermented foods are the most reliable sources of probiotics:
- Yoghurt, cultured buttermilk and kefir
- Sauerkraut, kimchi and pickles
- Tempeh, natto and miso
Get your fibre
Fibre is one of the key defences to poor gut health, along with helping with weight gain and sugar metabolization, with studies showing it reduces hunger frequency – this means we’ll be less likely to splurge on those inflammatory foods. It’s also essential for the following functions:
- Blood sugar regulation
- Hunger regulation
- Helps with regularity
- Reduces the risk of heart disease
But with only 5% of us getting enough fibre, it’s no wonder so many of us are having gut issues, from digestive troubles to low mood – it’s all connected. 19 to 38 grams per day is the current daily intake recommendation, so be sure to load up on fibre-rich foods like whole grains, legumes, fruit and veggies, nuts and seeds.
To maximise the effects, make sure you’re doing the following:
- Drinking adequate water
- Thoroughly chewing your food
- Get a little exercise each day – sit-ups and crunches help digestion
- Opt for whole fruit and veggies over juices
- Reduce your stress levels
Cut out inflammatory foods
Inflammatory foods wreak havoc on our guts and here’s the scary part – they’re everywhere. From so-called health foods to cereals, confectionery and fast food – these gut-disturbing foods line our supermarket shelves and end up in our pantries. While you may be aware of the link between inflammation and heart disease, there’s also another effect that comes with a dysregulated gut: destabilised hormones. This can affect everything from our sleep cycles to appetite and energy regulation.
An estimated 80% of women are affected by hormonal imbalances, which research has shown can even lead to the development of diseases like Alzheimer’s. Inflammatory foods to steer clear of include:
- Deep fried foods
- High-sugar foods
- Highly processed foods
- Trans fats
- Commercially baked cakes and cookies
Understand your symptoms
It’s important to record your gut health symptoms, whether you’re struggling with digestive issues like constipation or bloating, or having problems with reflux or heartburn – for instance, if it’s the latter, you might find eating smaller meals more frequently to be a helpful treatment. Keep a diary and make a note of which foods you find easier to digest, and track the changes in symptoms as you increase your whole food consumption.
Even if you’re feeling fit as a fiddle, these tips will all play a role in preventing problems and keeping your gut happy. Need a little extra help? Join us for our 8-Week Program where we’ll be ditching sugar and taking back control of our health. When you sign up to the program, you’ll have access to extensive plans, community support and exclusive access to our sugar-free content. Here’s what’s on offer:
- 8 weeks of expert-crafted meal plans and shopping lists.
- 90+ member-only recipes.
- Community forums to share your journey.
- Support from the I Quit Sugar team, plus our panel of experts.
- Mental and physical health benefits that last a lifetime.
If you’re ready to transform your health and say goodbye to sugar crashes, JOIN NOW!
Leave a comment (all fields required)