Gut Started with our Gut Tips
A gift to you from us, our top tips that may ACTUALLY scientifically make your gut happy by giving it some luvvin’!
1. Keep a diary!
This is NOT a stand-alone food diary for calorie counting but to monitor what you’re eating, how you are feeling (mentally and physically), your poops and how much you are moving to help you “tune in” to your body and to spot patterns. We all live such fast-past lives, when was the last time you asked yourself ‘how am I today’ – understanding and listening to your body is a big part of understanding your gut.
Experiment, try taking things out and putting 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 paper and getting writing.
PS: We have a great Gut Diary available. Gut yours here!
Science now shows that stress, anxiety, and depression can have a direct effect on your microbiome and how well your gut works and vice versa! The term ‘stress’ is really broad, stress can be physical (like an injury or ongoing illness), mental, perceived (e.g. being stressed about losing your job) or actual (actually losing your job). The links with gut-health and mental health really are extraordinary!
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?! A staggering 95% of your serotonin (your happy neurotransmitter) is produced in your gut! FYI this amazing connection is called the gut-brain-axis (1)! It’s the reason you feel butterflies in your 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, meditation or just get physical (in the gym, park or wherever as long as your heart gets pumping and your endorphins racing).
3. Eat the rainbow
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 having a happy gut Pack in as many different plant-based foods as you can, the more colourful the better, to feed your gut bugs and get a nice diverse community in there! By doing this, you’ll also get plenty of different fibre too (more on this to come). Aim to get at least 30 different plant-based foods in your diet a week. We create a list of every vegetable we can think of and cross them off during the week.
4. Chew, chew & chew again
Do you chew enough? Digestion doesn’t begin in your stomach; it begins before you even put food in your mouth. Just anticipating the arrival of a tasty meal kicks off the digestive process. 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. We’ve started using mini sound timers to train ourselves up (as we’re naturally hoovers!) – good game for kids too.
5. Rest it
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. Nutritionist Jeannette Hyde talks more about Time-Restricted Feeding and the benefits of it here.
6. Focus on fibre
Did you know you need 30g of fibre per day (2)? Most of us aren’t nearly getting enough. But what is it? Fibre is the unsung hero of the food world. Getting enough fibre can reduce the risk of developing high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, and bowel cancer.
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 keeps you regular, which we all know is super important.
There are lots of different types of fibre, which can be a bit confusing, but the main thing is to make sure you are getting enough and a variety of different types. Load up on veggies and fruits in their whole forms, include skins where edible (not kiwis, ew), include whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
Remember, if you don’t think you are getting enough fibre, increase the amount you consume by around 5g a day for a week to limit adverse effects. Some medical conditions mean that increased fibre intake isn’t advisable.
We’ve got lots of recipes here to incorporate fibre into your meals (the recipes are easy to make AND tasty!).
7. 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. So next time you have a hankering for some square sandwich cheese, maybe think about a proper bit of cheddar instead?
8. Give your gut probiotics and prebiotics
Confusing with the names being pretty similar but they are actually very different things. You need a good mix of both to keep your gut happy.
A probiotic is a live microorganism that, when eaten/drunk in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host (you!). Probiotics can be in food form or in supplement form but not all probiotics are created equal – different strains have different effects, and some might have no effect at all, it all depends on the individual. Science is still learning exactly how different strains work so watch this space. Foods containing probiotics: live yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, miso, and kombucha. Try getting a mix of different types across the course of your week (we like to experiment and make our own sauerkraut as it’s cheap and super easy).
Prebiotics are a specific type of fibre (see, it comes up everywhere), which is essentially gut bug food. When your gut bugs ferment prebiotics, they produce substances which keep your gut healthy and can make positive changes to your gut microbiome. Great sources of prebiotic food include: onion, garlic, leeks, chicory, bananas, asparagus, artichokes, olives, plums, apples, and in grains like bran and in nuts like almonds.
Also, check us out chatting to all the scientists about this over on “Watch the Series”.