How A Gut Health Dietitian Keeps Her Gut On Track
How A Gut Health Dietitian Keeps Her Gut On Track

How A Gut Health Dietitian Keeps Her Gut On Track

Research shows a healthy gut microbiome can improve everything from your immune system to your skin and even your mental wellbeing. Here, we asked gut health dietitian and head of research at Myota, Caitlin Hall, to explain all – including how best to keep yours in check.
By Tor West

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Everyone has bad gut days. Having ‘good’ gut health isn’t the same as having a flat stomach or perfect digestion. Expecting this is unrealistic – no-one’s gut health is perfect, and it’s bound to feel more resilient some days than others. For me, good gut health means having regular bowel movements, experiencing minimal bloating and discomfort after eating and feeling positive, energised and alert throughout the day. Good gut health is so much more than just digestive function.

The link between our gut and mental health is fascinating. Research shows maintaining good gut health is important for several brain functions, including how we process anxiety, sadness and stress, as well as our memory and ability to concentrate. A healthy and diverse diet can have remarkable effects on mental health, but a low-quality diet is proven to increase stress, anxiety and low mood. Green vegetables like kale, spinach, green beans and broccoli are gut-loving brain superfoods. Studies show they can slow cognitive decline in older age. Extra virgin olive oil has also been shown to have beneficial effects on anxiety and depression symptoms.

Your gut microbes thrive on fibre. I try to include a source of fibre in every meal and snack. A low-sugar granola or muesli is my breakfast of choice – I look for brands that contain oats, bran, seeds, nuts and a small amount of dried fruit – along with natural yoghurt and fresh berries. In the warmer weather, I love a smoothie. They’re a convenient way to pack gut-friendly ingredients into your morning. Try blending 200ml of kefir with 100g of frozen blueberries, a teaspoon of honey, a tablespoon of chia seeds and a small banana. If I’m having eggs, I’ll always have a serving of kimchi on the side, for a dose of live bacteria. If you’re thinking of increasing the fibre in your diet, do so gradually, adding in just 5g more per day to avoid constipation and bloating.

Hydration is essential for a happy gut. I avoid coffee on an empty stomach, and ensure I drink it with a meal to moderate the impact of caffeine. For the rest of the day, I stick to unsweetened, low-caffeine and non-carbonated drinks. I always have a bottle of water with me, too.

Avoiding snacking gives your digestive system a chance to reset. I try to avoid grazing throughout the day, but if I feel my energy levels dipping, I’ll have a snack that includes fibre, complex carbs and protein to keep me full and satisfied until my next meal. My favourite gut-friendly snacks include avocado on rice cakes; a handful of dark chocolate almonds; or a homemade fruit smoothie with Greek yoghurt and a scoop of Myota prebiotic fibre blend.

I fill half my plate with fruit or vegetables. A source of complex carbs – brown rice, sweet potato or quinoa – fill a quarter, and the remaining quarter is filled with protein, like tofu, fish, chicken or lentils. A typical dinner might be a soy, garlic and ginger marinated salmon fillet with brown rice, and stir-fried broccoli and edamame beans. I’m a big advocate for cooking simple, nutritious meals from scratch as much as possible. This gives me more control over what I’m fuelling my gut with and helps me create gluten-free versions of my favourite treats.

Loading up on antioxidants will nourish the gut. Antioxidants are compounds that protect the body from oxidative stress, a type of damage that occurs when there are too many free radicals in the body. Oxidative stress has been linked to inflammation, ageing and chronic diseases. The gut is particularly susceptible to oxidative stress due to the continuous exposure to food and toxins, and over time, this can impair the gut lining and disrupt the balance of your microbiome. Antioxidants can protect the gut by neutralising free radicals, reducing inflammation and supporting the gut lining. Swap your morning coffee for a green tea and cook with more herbs and spices. Turmeric, cinnamon, oregano and basil are particularly packed with antioxidants – add them to soups, stews and baking.

If you can, AVOID ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS – eating NATURAL SUGAR in moderation is much BETTER FOR YOUR GUT than relying on calorie-free alternatives.

Fake sugar isn’t great for your gut. I have alcoholic drinks and artificially sweetened drinks as occasional treats rather than as part of my daily routine. This is because excessive consumption of alcohol and sweeteners disrupts the delicate balance of the microbiome. Over time, this can lead to low-grade systemic (i.e., whole body) inflammation, which results in poor metabolic, immune and brain health. Dry Drinker is a great site that has a range of alcohol- and gluten-free drinks – a double win for me. Seedlip and Caleno are my favourites – they’re delicious mixed with soda water and lime juice. If I’m craving a sweetened drink, I’ll opt for a low sugar kombucha, such as MOMO Kombucha, or an Innocent coconut water. If you can, avoid artificial sweeteners – eating natural sugar in moderation is much better for your gut than relying on calorie-free alternatives.

I avoid probiotic supplements. There isn’t much evidence for their impact on gut health. Instead, I try to include natural gut superfoods in my diet, like chia seeds, guar gum, oat bran and flaxseeds. I also take scoop of Myota’s prebiotic fibre blend with my breakfast as well as an omega-3 and iron supplement daily.

Stress wreaks havoc on the digestive system. Stress can negatively impact gut health by slowing digestion and changing the composition of the microbiome, leading to suppressed immune function and inflammation. How you eat factors into this. I always try to eat meals sitting down and eat at a relaxed pace. Chewing your food properly is crucial for better gut health – I aim for ten to 20 bites per mouthful. I avoid eating on-the-go or at my desk as much as possible. Prioritising daily stress is also important. Optimising sleep, running and going for long bike rides keep my stress levels under control.

Exercise can ease bloating. Moving your body helps move food through the digestive system, but you don’t have to exercise intensely to see the benefits. Gentle movement like walking and restorative yoga can be just as effective. My own exercise routine involves a combination of hiking, running, cycling, weights, and hot dynamic Pilates. This routine boosts my mental wellbeing and energy, while the running and Pilates help me maintain healthy digestive function and regularity.

Kiwis are a great way to deal with constipation. Eat the skin for the best benefits – they’re full of fibre and are my go-to hack for constipation. Going for a walk after a meal or spending five minutes in child’s pose also works wonders.

Nourishing your gut comes down to common sense. Anything extreme is unlikely to be beneficial for your gut, and don’t be sold by quick fixes. Detox teas are a good example – most of these products don’t work and may even aggravate your stomach further. Fad diets are also best avoided – dramatically restricting calories and cutting out whole food groups can throw your microbiome off balance – and there’s no evidence colon cleanses will reset your gut or help you lose weight. In fact, they’re more likely to cause bloating and stomach pain than relieve it. Prioritising sleep is also important. Not everyone needs eight hours a night for optimal gut health, but consistent bedtimes and wake times help get your circadian rhythm in order, reduce stress and improve digestive function.

For more gut health tips from Caitlin, follow her on Instagram @Caitlin_Dietitian. Also visit

DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.


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