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  • Writer's pictureMelanie

Why is my gut important to my health?

Are you suffering with bloating, wind, constipation or diarrhoea? Do you feel constantly tired, struggle to sleep, have poor skin or low immunity? Are your hormones all over the place?

Your gut health may well be the key: by making changes to support the 39 trillion microbes that live in our gut, we can stabilize our weight, balance our hormones, improve our skin health, improve our mental health, and get rid of those dreadful digestive complaints!

Looking after our gut is central to our health. We can consider our diet to be healthy, we can take supplements or medication and we can go to the gym, but without feeding the microbes in our system, we can never truly be well. Gut health is a huge topic, which I aim to dive into over a series of blog articles. In this blog, I shall be giving an overview of why gut health matters, and the first simple step to improving gut health.

According to Dr Will Bulsiewicz, author of Fiber Fueled, the following symptoms are all associated with damage to our gut microbiota (gut dysbiosis):

Abdominal pain, wind, bloating, food sensitivities, food allergies, diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, indigestion, heartburn, belching, weight gain, fatigue, brain fog, difficulty concentrating, mood swings, anxiousness, skin breakouts, joint pains, muscle aches, bad breath, sinus congestion, shortness of breath/wheezing, migraine.

Immune-mediated conditions that are associated with gut dysbiosis include asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, eczema, seasonal allergies, restless leg syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, lupus, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease and more.

Metabolic and hormonal conditions linked to gut dysbiosis include obesity, type 2 diabetes, PCOS, endometriosis and hypothyroidism.

I know from my own experience how it feels not to look after gut health. Prior to studying nutrition, I spent years suffering from a range of afflictions, including chronic fatigue syndrome, bloating and diarrhoea, insomnia, weight gain, hormones all over the place, brain fog, sinus congestion and allergies to anything going. I thought I ate well, I exercised, but something was not right. I began my nutrition journey and learnt more and more about the importance of the gut. The more I read, the more love I gave to my gut, and today I can proudly say that I no longer suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, my digestion is good, my allergic responses have all but disappeared, I don’t feel congested and my hormones are stable, despite me being 'of a certain age'!

Once we start to really look after our gut microbiota, we can improve our immune system, metabolism, hormonal balance and cognitive function.

What simple step can you take right now to start to improve your gut health?

‘The single greatest predictor of a healthy gut microbiome is the diversity of plants in the diet’ – Dr Rob Knight, a world-renowned expert in gut health.

It is important to eat a wide range of different foods each week, especially of fruit and vegetables. Increasing the diversity on your plate is the first, and possibly most significant step, towards a healthier gut microbiome. This is because we need a wide range of bacteria in our gut, and the only way to support this is by eating a wide range of foods.

Fill in the table below every day to see how many different plants you consume, remember to include fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices, lentils, beans, pulses, oils, wholegrains such as rice, oats, buckwheat, bread, pasta.

(50 foods credit: Miguel Toribio-Mateas)

Once you have assessed the variety of plants in your diet, the next thing to do is to gradually increase the diversity and quantity.

Try adding an extra portion of vegetables to your plate each week. For example, if you currently eat 2 vegetable portions a day, next week eat 3 portions a day, until you are eating to 5-7 portions of veg a day.

(A portion is 80 grams, or about a handful, not just 2 or 3 slices of cucumber!)

Make sure that you mix things up by including different vegetables, not just sticking to the same few. A veg box might help with this, as they tend to contain a wide range of seasonal produce.

Then add in more fruit, so that you are eating 2-3 portions a day. Try to include at least one portion of berries or grapes every day.

Experiment by adding a handful of freshly chopped herbs to salads, soups, pastas or curries for delicious flavour and more diversity!

What else can I do to support my gut health?

  • Reduce the amount of processed foods you eat. Your gut microbes love real food, not processed, so where possible, cook from scratch.

  • Cut out sugar. Sugar is fermented in the gut, adding to bloating and wind. Alcohol is also to be avoided if possible.

  • Take regular exercise, yes your microbes will thank you!

  • Eating fermented foods and sprouted seeds every day are also excellent for supporting gut health, I shall be covering these in two more blogs coming soon!

In my next blog on gut health, I shall be looking specifically at the link between the gut microbiome and hormones.

If you are struggling with your gut health, or with the conditions mentioned above and feel like you would benefit from more support to manage your health, click here to book a free 30-minute discovery call with me to find out how I can support you to feel amazing again!

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