A nutritional therapist has lifted the lid on the importance of our gut health and what we should be doing in order to improve it.
More and more people are keen to start taking care of this aspect of their health, as the gut is essential to our physical and mental wellbeing.
In fact, 80 percent of the body’s immune system lies within the gut, so it’s vital we keep it in good shape. And one specific type of food should be avoided if you want to maintain a healthy gut, as it can disrupt the bacteria and cause stomach problems.
That’s according to Abir Hamza-Goodacre, registered nutritional therapist at Benenden who has revealed her top tips on taking care of your gut health that everyone can follow.
One of these is making a simple diet swap that can really benefit your gut in the long run – and that’s avoiding artificial sweeteners.
The expert said: “While you may think that opting for ‘sugar free’ or ‘diet’ foods and drinks are better for you, especially if you are trying to lose weight, they can in fact be worse for the gut microbiome.
“Artificial sweeteners can disrupt the balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut. An imbalanced gut flora can lead to stomach disturbances such as gas and bloating as well as more long-term symptoms, for example unintentional weight changes or constant fatigue.
“If you do have a more sensitive gut or notice uncomfortable stomach symptoms occurring after consuming products high in artificial sweeteners, then try to avoid them. Instead, opt for naturally sweet foods, such as banana, berries, sweet potatoes, and cashew nuts.”
Abir says that even though the gut can be complex, there are a few other simple lifestyle changes you can make in order to improve your health, which she has shared below.
How to improve gut health
Eat a whole food diet
Diet is key to gut health. Often, the people with a healthy and diverse gut ecosystem are those who eat a range of colourful fruits and vegetables every day.
Be careful not to eat too many processed or sugary snacks, as they can cause an imbalance between bad and good gut bacteria.
Instead, try to include a diverse range of fruits and vegetables into your everyday diet.
It’s also important to include sources of insoluble fibre in your diet, which help to speed up the passage of food through the stomach. Some examples of these include nuts, grains, legumes, cauliflower, strawberries, and raspberries.
Eat fermented foods
Some of the best foods you can eat to support gut health are fermented foods.
Recent research has found that prebiotic foods improved cognition, ageing and frailty in older people. Eating fermented food can help boost the number of good bacteria, also known as probiotics, in your gut, ultimately aiding your digestive system.
Examples of fermented foods include plain yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, miso, and tempeh.
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Try to reduce stress
Stress can have a real effect on our gut health.
Research has shown that high stress levels can cause a reduction in good bacteria. Consistently high stress levels could be the cause of an unhealthy gut and also lead to digestive issues such as constipation or a loss of appetite.
If you are live a high-stress lifestyle, then think how you might be able to reduce these feelings. Certain ways to do so may be more significant and need serious consideration, such as a career change or ending a relationship.
But there are smaller steps such as practising mindfulness, exercising more, and speaking to a mental health professional that could all improve your overall wellbeing and gut health.
Move your body
Increasing your activity levels is not only great for your wellbeing and stress levels, but exercise is also directly beneficial for your gut.
The increased oxygen in your bloodstream and rise in body temperature that comes with exercise are exactly the conditions your good gut bacteria thrive on.
If you aren’t too confident when it comes to working out or don’t have a very active lifestyle, then start by making small changes. For example, you could head out for a quick power walk or gentle jog on your lunch break.
For those who have joint pain or are perhaps exercising at home and want to avoid making too much noise, pilates and yoga are great low impact exercises to strengthen muscles and work up a sweat.
Beneden has also created the Go With Your Gut health quiz to help people gain a better understanding of how they can improve their eating and lifestyle habits.
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