Gut health is one of the latest trends to hit the health and wellness world. But, unlike many other trends, the science stacks up: suggesting this is one development that might actually be worth jumping on board.
Gut health relates to the functioning of your entire gastrointestinal (GI) tract (the tube that delivers food from entry to exit). This involves the digestion and absorption of nutrients, the “leakiness” of your gut, 70% of your immune cells, and many other functions that happen without you knowing.
However, it’s only been in the past decade – since we’ve discovered the significance of the trillions of bacteria that live within everyone’s GI tract – that gut health has started to turn heads. And there’s good reason to; this community of bacteria, known as your gut microbiota, is considered central to our overall health and happiness.
Why is gut health important?
Anyone who has suffered symptoms of gut distress such as diarrhoea, constipation and stomach pain, knows just how debilitating it can be. One study highlighted that people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) would give up 25% of their remaining life to get relief from their gut symptoms!
In fact, the importance of gut health extends beyond the gastrointestinal tract impacting other vital organs like the brain, heart, kidney and liver. Your gut microbiota have been linked with many conditions including mental health, diabetes and autoimmune conditions1. And it doesn’t stop there – gut health is not just about preventing and treating disease but may even affect your general wellbeing by impacting your mood, thoughts and perhaps even your food preferences.
7 Steps for better gut health
1. Eat a varied diet rich in fibre
High-fibre food include vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, legumes and pulses. Gradually increase fibre over several weeks to give your gut time to adapt.
2. Experiment with fermented foods containing good bacteria
e.g. kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut
Foods naturally containing live bacteria come at no extra cost and taste great.
3. Avoid unnecessary medications, particularly overuse of antibiotics and painkillers
These can aggravate gut problems and disrupt your gut microbiota.
4. Take your time to eat, chew your food well
Digestion starts in the mouth and chewing your food well is an important part.
Tip: Aim to chew your food between 10-20 times, until the food is broken down.
5. Take time to breathe, destress and sleep well
There’s a direct link between your brain and gut. Being stressed and tired can profoundly affect your gut health.
6. Exercise regularly
Exercise helps to regulate bowel habit, particularly those prone to constipation. It’s also associated with greater diversity within your gut microbiota, which is a good thing.
7. Know when to seek medical advice
Gut symptoms can mask underlying disease, alarm features include: unexplained weight loss, low iron levels, rectal bleeding, family history of coeliac disease, bowel cancer or ovarian cancer, being over 60 years with changes in bowel habit lasting more than six weeks.
Sea salt & rosemary legume crunch
This recipe is your gut microbiota’s favourite bar snack. It proves that looking after your gut health can be tasty, quick and doesn’t need to break the bank. It’s loaded with gut-loving prebiotics (food for the good microbes) and comes in at under £0.30 per serving. It also makes a great topper for any soup or salad. The recipe comes from Dr Rossi’s new book The Gut Health Doctor: An easy-to-digest guide to health from the inside out. (Serves 4)
- 400g can of 4 bean mix, (or legume of your choice, drained and rinsed)
- 1 tsp olive oil | ½ tsp sea salt | 1 tsp rosemary
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 6).
- Pat dry legumes before tossing with in olive oil and seasonings.
- On a lined baking tray spread out legumes. Bake for 15-20 mins or until golden brown and crispy.
- Allow to cool before enjoying.
Storage tips: Best eaten fresh, but will keep in an air-tight container for up to four days
Options: Experiment with other flavour combos like garlic/onion or paprika/cayenne.