HOW TO IMPROVE GUT HEALTH
How to improve gut health has become a hugely debatable topic these days. It seems almost every health professional is talking about it and tbh rightly so.
Your gut health is extremely important and a common phrase used by many these days is,
“we are not what we eat, we are what we assimilate”
This means we are basically made up of and function accordingly to the foods we are able to process and use effectively.
For a whole host of reasons, our gut health has become comprised, especially within the last half decade or so as food manufacturing process has become overly modified to produce on a mass scale using the cheapest ingredients possible.
As this process has evolved we as humans haven’t been able to evolve quick enough to handle these changes. This has a huge impact on our gut health, and due to the gut-brain axis this has a knock effect to a whole host of issues, such as:
- chronic fatigue due to poor sleep
- excesses weight gain
- poor immune system and function
- dips in energy
- constant gas
- mental stress
- poor clarity and decision making
- an inability to perform or recover effectively from training
The list really is endless.
Can you relate to any of these?
So how can you improve your gut health?
Well here are my 5 top tips on how to improve your gut health:
Assess your diet.
What kind of foods does the majority of your diet consist off?
Are the foods heavily processed or are they more single ingredient natural products?
If your food is more processed then chances are your gut is getting stressed as our bodies over time struggle to assimilate and digest the constant increase in additives and preservatives.
This has a knock on effect even to the healthy foods we consume as the gut just isn’t functioning effectively.
A general rule of thumb is if you look at the list of ingredients on the back of a food package and you can’t pronounce it then avoid it.
Keep a food to mood diary.
Are you constantly bloated and have excessive amounts of gas?
Bloatedness and excessive amounts of gas is a key sign that you’re consuming a food that your body is struggling to break down.
Even if this food is deemed as healthy. The general population today accept this as the norm or use a digestive aid such as Gaviscon to help reduce the symptoms paying no attention to the fact this food doesn’t agree with you.
If you keep a ‘food to mood’ diary you can quite easily assess which foods may be causing you a problem and eliminate them from your diet.
On a daily basis write down the foods you eat and at what time. When you suddenly have dips in energy, get bloated or gassy or struggle to mentally focus and lose clarity, check back a couple of hours to see what you consumed. It can usually take 1-2 hours for symptoms to arise. This is a great tool for how to improve your gut health.
How’s your poo?
I’m sorry but this needs to be mentioned if you want to know how to improve your gut health.
Visually assessing the look and consistency of your stools can give you a good idea if your diet is working for you.
In an ideal world, it should be numbers 3-5 on the Bristol stool chart below, (LINK TO CHART)
Every now and then it may be a little off point especially if you’ve eaten out at a restaurant or had a takeaway and that can be ok in mild doses but if it’s an everyday occurrence something needs to be done.
The Bristol stool chart;
- Type 1 indicates problems with constipation from lack of fibre (such as attempting a zero-carb diet), low levels of beneficial gut bacteria, or from recently taking antibiotics.
- Type 2 can be a symptom of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and can also be associated with haemorrhoids, anal fissures, and long-term chronic constipation.
- Type 3 is considered normal, but in some cases, may indicate latent constipation and some of the problems associated with Type 2.
- Type 4 is optimal!
- Type 5 is considered normal for people with two or three bowel movements per day, but it can also indicate incomplete digestion of food or insufficient amounts of fibre and other carbohydrates that feed gut flora.
- Type 6 suggests an abnormally fast bowel transit time and can be a result of excessive stress, the use of laxatives, or certain gut health disorders.
- Type 7 is classic diarrhoea—the result of foodborne illness, the flu, Crohn’s disease, and extreme gut irritation.
So, frequently experiencing stools that match Type 1 or 2 and Type 6 or 7 may indicate a problem that should be investigated further if you want to know how to improve gut health.
Are you always sick and tired?
Did you know that the digestive system is equipped with the largest and most complex part of the human immune system?
Among other things, a balanced gut includes microbes that secrete chemical messengers that let immune cells know what to do to protect us from pathogens (bad bugs) and foreign substances.
Having plenty of good bacteria is essential as it protects us by leaving less opportunistic pathogens to grow.
It’s ironic that many of us take some form of over the counter or prescribed medication when we’re sick, which may fix the illness short term, but it should be known that these products destroy our gut lining and balance and can leave us open to more infections. It doesn’t get to the bottom of how to improve gut health.
The immune system is heavily based in the gut, so if you find yourself getting sick or lacking in good quality sleep quite often, then you may need to address your gut health and improve on the good bacteria in your body.
Are you gaining weight despite controlling your calories and training frequently?
If you are in a calorific deficit and train regularly but don’t really control the types of foods you’re consuming, (an if it fits your macros approach ) then these poor food choices could be the reason why you’re not shifting the fat.
Now I’m not saying you have to eat “clean” all the time, but the majority of your diet should come from healthy foods as mentioned above in point 1.
Poor food choices can have a massive impact on your gut health, which in turn can lead to a whole host of hormonal issues that could affect your hormonal balance and or your thyroid function.
Try and live by the 80/20 rule whereby 80% of your diet consists of single healthy ingredients and 20% can come from processed foods. This will go a long way when knowing how to improve gut health.
I hope by now you have begun to realise how important your gut health is and you understand how to improve gut health.
If you do feel like you have an issue you can make some of the changes above and also add a good probiotic to your daily supplement routine. I suggest you do some of your own research on this to find the best one for you.
If problems still persist after a month of change then it might be worth having a gut health test to help identify what’s truly causing the issue.
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