1. Eat a balanced diet
When it comes to your gut, eating a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables is the best and easiest way to make your friendly bacteria happy!
Eating processed foods high in simple sugars and bad fats throw out the balance of good and bad bacteria by putting the good ones out of a job! When we say ‘bad fats’ we are talking about fats that are rancid or oxidised (usually as a result of exposure to high temperatures) as well as trans fats, such as those found in cheap vegetable oils, some margarines and all deep fried foods!
Choose ‘real food’ found on the outer edges of your supermarket aisles, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, sprouted grains, and organic meat and dairy products. These will increase the beneficial bacteria needed to optimise digestion and fermentation process.
2. Experiment with probiotic-rich food
Probiotics can be found in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso soup, yoghurt with live cultures, sourdough bread and kombucha. You can also purchase probiotic supplements found in most health food stores and pharmacies.
If you have gone through a course of antibiotics, where healthy bacteria are killed off as well as bad bacteria, incorporating probiotic-rich food is a great way to replenish probiotic stores.
3. Choose fibre-rich foods daily
Most Australians are not meeting the 25-30 grams of fibre intake per day. Consuming adequate fibre daily can assist in maintaining or losing weight, assist in stabilising blood sugar levels and maintain healthy gut microbiome. Most importantly for everyday health, it helps to regulate bowel movements and removal of waste.
Increase fibre slowly to allow your body to adjust, especially if you have had a very low fibre diet to begin with. Try swapping white varieties of breads and cereals with wholegrain and wholemeal ones.
4. Drink plenty of water
Increasing fibre in your diet needs to accompany an increase in fluid intake to gain the maximum benefits and avoid stomach cramps. The exact amount of fluid you need daily depends on many factors such as age, gender, physical activity and medication. As a general rule of thumb, ensure you are getting at least 2 Litres of water each day (around 8 to 10 cups).
5. Move more
Benefits of physical activity have been highlighted many times in the literature. To add to the list, there is evidence to show that being physically active can positively influence gut health. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise daily as well as reducing sitting time.
6. Stress less
The gut-brain axis refers to the bi-directional communication between the gut and the brain. There are extensive evidence showing that poor gut health may exacerbate or bring on depression and anxiety. On the other hand, chronic stress can result in worsening of gut health as our bodies are not able to digest and absorb nutrients effectively when under stress.
Incorporating practices that involve deep breathing such as meditation, yoga or tai chi have been shown to reduce stress and in turn improve gut health.