Eat The Rainbow
Variety is the spice of life, and it is the same for gut health. A diverse diet is key to feeding the diverse microbiome in your gut. Sana recommends packing your plate with as many different colours as possible: “The nutrient profile of fruit and vegetables can be grouped by colour. For example, orange veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes or butternut squash are all high in beta carotene. Mixing up the colours on your plate will ensure you’re getting a good mix of gut-friendly nutrients.”
Hitting that daily 2l water mark has many bodily benefits, including boosting gut health. “Hydration is important to keep things moving in the gut, and for the contraction and relaxation processes of digestion,” says Sana. Just try not to go overboard with drinking water while eating: ‘Firstly, this can give you a false sense of feeling full. Secondly, it can dilute or suppress the enzymes working hard to digest your food.” She suggests small sips with meals and saving glasses of water for half an hour before or after.
Don’t Forget Fibre
This often overlooked food group is key for a healthy gut. “There are two types of fibre – insoluble and soluble – and we all need both to help with getting things moving,’ advises Sana. Eating a diet rich in colourful vegetables is a good place to start, but also look to include wholegrains (e.g. oats, rye bread or brown rice), pulses, nuts and seeds.
Stop Scrolling, Start Chewing
Ever inhaled a sandwich en route to a meeting? Or demolished a brownie while scrolling through Instagram? Eating quickly and unconsciously is bad news for the gut. It’s much better to take time over your food and chew it properly. “Chewing is the first stage in the digestion process,” explains Sana. “Not only does it prepare the food correctly for digestion, the hormone produced via saliva when chewing sends signals to the brain that it’s full.”
Try To Stress Less
The phrase ‘gut feeling’ comes from somewhere. The mind-gut connection is very real – think of the butterflies in your stomach before a big meeting or interview. “Our brain is connected to our gut through the vagus nerve,” says Sana. “When you are in ‘fight or flight’ mode – aka stressed or anxious – your body diverts its attention to the brain to deal with that, as opposed to focusing on the gut. Unfortunately, the body can’t differentiate between actual danger (a car pulling out in front of you, say) and stress (an eye roll-inducing email), so eating in this state will stop the gut working to its full potential. Including some stress-busting rituals within your day (think yoga, meditation or an Epsom salt bath) is a good idea.”
Stock Up On Fermented Foods
Fermented foods that are rich in natural probiotics (the good gut bacteria) are a great addition to a healthy diet. “Live yoghurt, sauerkraut and kombucha are excellent sources of friendly bacteria that will support equilibrium and balance the gut,” advises Sana.
Consider Taking A Supplement
Probiotic supplements are an option, especially if you have taken a course of good bacteria-zapping antibiotics. Although Sana suggests a cautious approach, given the overwhelming number of products on the market. “The gut microflora is sensitive and you don’t want to upset it by using the wrong product. Always seek professional advice first.”
Sana Khan is a nutrition consultant visit Nourishbysk.co.uk
NHS guidelines suggest seeing a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms: a sudden, persistent change in the pattern of how your bowels work; bleeding; worsening heartburn; indigestion or stomach pain; losing weight unexpectedly; or difficulty swallowing. Read more at NHS.uk.
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