Top tips for optimising your gut health

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The health of your gut not only impacts how you feel physically but also mentally. In fact, your gut is a gateway to your overall health.  It is safe to say most Australians do not have great gut health with at least 50% experiencing unpleasant gut symptoms such as bloating, reflux and constipation and 1 in 7 experiencing distressing symptoms. In this month’s blog, our resident dietitian Nicky delves into why our gut health is so important and her top tips for looking after it! 

Why is our gut health important?

Apart from digesting food and absorbing nutrients, energy and water, our gut also forms a physical barrier against harmful substances entering our body. Because of this, it plays a key role in our immune system and balancing inflammation levels in the body. The gut also regulates our appetite and supports our brain health and mood. Our resident gut microbes called our gut microbiota also play a key role. Their main job is to break down fibre and when they do this they produce a very important chemical called a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA). SCFAs strengthen the gut lining and immune system, boost the number of beneficial bacteria, reduce levels of harmful bacteria and reduce levels of inflammation in the body.    Looking after your gut health is important for losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight, absorbing nutrients, reducing your risk of chronic disease, supporting brain function and mood regulation, strengthening your immune system and reducing levels of inflammation in the body. Some signs of poor gut health include bloating, lower abdominal pain, frequent heartburn or reflux, excessive flatulence, constipation and or diarrhoea. 

Our top tips for optimising your gut health

Aim for 25-30g+ of fibre per day 

Fibre is the part of plant foods that our body cannot break down. This doesn’t mean it goes to waste! Instead, it stays intact until it reaches your large bowel or colon where your resident ‘good’ gut bugs live. When it reaches your large bowel, it feeds and nourishes your gut bugs helping them thrive. Fibre has lots of health benefits including: 

Despite being so important for our health most Australians do not consume enough fibre which puts them at an increased risk of health problems. Fibre diversity is also lacking in the Australian diet because we tend not to have much variety in the plant foods we eat.  Foods rich in fibre include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. 

Here are some easy food swaps to increase your fibre intake

Aim for 30+ different plants per week

The more varied your diet is in terms of plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains and legumes, the more varied your ‘good’ gut bugs are, which is important! A gut-healthy habit to get into is aiming for 30 different plants per week which is 4 to 5 different plant foods per day. Here are some easy ways to boost your plant intake; 

Eat less red meat and processed meats

Red meat consumption can cause our gut bacteria to produce substances harmful to our health, such as TMA and TMAO, linked to a high risk of heart disease. A high intake of red meat can also reduce the levels of healthy bacteria in our gut. The Cancer Council estimates that 2,600 cases of bowel cancer in Australia each year are associated with eating too much red meat and processed meat.

Because of this

Take steps to manage stress

Stress can impact our gut health by speeding up (diarrhoea) or slowing down (constipation) how fast food moves through. It can also disrupt the delicate balance of healthy bacteria in the gut, increase inflammation and increase how the nerves in our gut perceive pain. Stress is also known to exacerbate symptoms in people who have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Take steps to manage your stress and schedule in a little ‘you’ time,  

Drink enough water

Water is important for keeping your bowels nice and regular. Aim for around 2L of water per day. Having too much fibre and not enough water can also cause constipation or discomfort. 

To learn more about our amazing staff visit Our Expertise.

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