1. Include fermented foods in your diet regularly
Fermentation is a process that involves the breakdown of sugars by bacteria and yeast, resulting in the production of beneficial bacteria known as probiotics that aid digestion and overall health.
We recommend including a source of fermented food or drink in your daily diet, such as:
2. Increase the variety of plant foods in your diet
Plants are high in fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, which makes them essential for gut health. This is because fibre acts as a source of food for beneficial bacteria living in your gut. Different types of plant foods contain different types of fibres, so it’s crucial to consume a range of plant foods to ensure your beneficial gut bacteria are nourished.
Don’t forget to leave the skins on your fruits and vegetables whenever possible, as they are an excellent source of fibre.
3. Drink plenty of water
Staying hydrated is essential for optimal digestion and overall health. A fibre rich diet is important for gut health. However, in order for fibre to do its job, adequate water is required. A lack of water can slow down your digestive system significantly and result in harder stools that are more difficult to pass. Aim to consume at least 2L of water each day for optimal hydration and gut health benefits.
If you struggle to drink enough water here are some tips to drink more:
Carry a water bottle with you at all times
Have a glass of water before and after each meal
Add some sliced fruit e.g. sliced lemon and orange to a bottle in the fridge to enhance the taste
Try a tea infusion bag – designed for cold water
4. Reduce highly processed foods
Consuming too many processed foods can lead to a low consumption of fibre rich foods. A diet low in fibre and high in added sugars, fats and salts can encourage the wrong types of gut bacteria to grow. A gut that contains lots of unhealthy bacteria has been associated with autoimmune diseases, obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart diseases So, it’s essential to limit highly processed foods and choose natural, whole foods instead.
5. Chew slowly
Chewing your food thoroughly prepares it for digestion, making it easier for your gut to do its job. By eating slowly, you’ll avoid indigestion, prevent overeating, and give your natural satiety signals a chance to kick in, letting you know when you’re full.
Tips to chew slowly:
- Remove distractions like TV, mobile phones or computer screens when you are eating.
- Eat with friends or family and enjoy their company! Catching up and connecting with people gives us time to slow down and speak between bites.
- Put your fork down between bites and savour what’s in your mouth. Pay attention to the tastes and textures.
- Have a water bottle or glass of water handy and have a sip every few bites.
- Set aside time to eat – make an appointment with yourself or friends so that at least 20-30 minutes is dedicated to your meal time. Making time for meals removes the stress and need to rush.
6. Limit artificial sweeteners if you can
While artificial sweeteners may help decrease your total energy intake, they could also have an adverse effect on the diversity of your gut microbiome. So, it’s best to limit them whenever possible. Be mindful of how many products you are consuming contain artificial sweeteners and how these might impact your gut health.
7. Don’t cut carbs
Carbohydrates are a type of fibre needed for good gut health. Cutting carbs may see you lose weight in the short term, but most of this will be loss of water weight. This is because carbohydrates are stored in the body attached to water. When you cut out carbohydrates, your stores are depleted and with that so is a lot of water. The biggest consequence, however, is that you can also damage your gut bacteria, which might in the long term have consequences such as an increased risk of colon cancer.
Instead of cutting all carbs, focus on consuming healthy wholegrain carbohydrates – brown rice, quinoa, oats, wholegrain cereals, wholegrain bread, pulse pasta.
8. Get more sleep
Research suggests that getting a good night’s sleep is essential for a healthy gut. Our gut bacteria have their own circadian rhythms and inadequate sleep can disrupt this rhythm in the microbiome and negatively influence the diversity and number of bacteria in the gut. Most of us need around 7-8 hours sleep each night and even if you think you can function perfectly fine on less, your gut bugs might think otherwise!
Tips to get more sleep:
- Set yourself a bedtime and stick to it!
- Avoid screen time in the 30-60 minutes leading up to bed time.
- Replace the screen time with reading a book!
9. Manage Stress levels
Prolonged stress can cause major issues for our digestive system. When we’re stressed, our body is set to ‘fight or flight’ mode, reducing blood flow to our digestive muscles and favoring other areas. This means that everything is put on hold, leading to reduced secretion of digestive enzymes, which may result in indigestion, gastrointestinal inflammation, constipation, or diarrhea.
Managing stress can be challenging, but it’s important to find ways to reduce stress levels to improve gut health. Some stress-reducing activities you can try include:
- Spend more time outdoors
- Include exercise you enjoy each day
- Reduce your screen time
- Try meditation or yoga.