According to a report by BMC Medicine, the term gut health refers to “multiple positive aspects of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, such as the effective digestion and absorption of food, the absence of GI illness, normal and stable intestinal microbiota, effective immune status and a state of well-being”.
Gut health has been linked to many things, including metabolic disorders, problems with your immune system, and inflammation.
Take a look at our comprehensive guide for understanding your gut health.
What is gut health?
Nutritionists agree when bad bacteria outnumber good bacteria in your gut, digestive mayhem is the result.
“Many factors can compromise the optimal balance,” says Natalie Lamb, “like food, drink, stress, travel, medications, infections and antibiotics.
“Traditionally, we would eat fermented foods like yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir and pickles to top up on beneficial bacteria. Now we take probiotic supplements in easy-to-swallow capsules.”
Which probiotic is best for gut health?
Being able to withstand stomach acid is key, as good bacteria can be easily destroyed by it. Try Trubiotic The Precision Biotic, R63,95 for 10 capsules, Dis-Chem
Which fermented foods to buy
Fermented foods are easy to digest because good bacteria are involved in the fermentation process. These are fitness nutritionist Rick Hay’s favourites…
- Yoghurt organic, plain.
- Miso makes probiotic-rich, low-kilojoule soups and teas.
- Apple cider vinegar is good at sorting acid reflux and lowering blood glucose. Drink 2tsp in water before a meal.
- Milk kefir is cultured dairy product. Add to smoothies.
- Sauerkraut; kimchi made from fermented cabbage.
- Kombucha, a drink filled with healthy bacteria.
Should I go gluten-free?
Yes, if you’ve been diagnosed with coeliac disease, but even non-coeliacs who have a wheat intolerance are finding it quite useful, too. You’ll know if you’re gluten intolerant if you get gas, constipation, or diarrhoea after eating wheat, rye, or barley.
You’ll need to…
- Check ingredient lists like crazy
- Eat more whole foods like fruit, veggies, chicken, fish, lean red meats, and organic yoghurt
- Try quinoa, millet, buckwheat and amaranth, plus plain, brown rice – gluten-free doesn’t mean grain-free!
Read River Cottage Gluten Free (Bloomsbury) by Naomi Devlin; and Phil Vickery’s Essential Gluten-free (Kyle Books) – both brilliant!
Is bone broth healthy?
“I’m a huge fan of gut-friendly broth,” enthuses Sarah Bowles-Flannery. “It’s an essential part of gut healing for inflammatory bowel conditions, which have a link to ADD and autism in kids, and depression, anxiety, and brain disorders in adults. Drink straight, or add to soups.”
How do I make bone broth?
Cover marrow bones with water, add a little salt and a good splash of apple cider vinegar. Simmer for 24 hours, or put in a pressure cooker on high for one hour.
Read Gut and Psychology Syndrome (Medinform Publishing) by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride; and find great broth recipes in Good + Simple (Clarkson Potter Publishers) by Jasmine Hemsley and Melissa Hemsley.
What is the FODMAP diet?
Even just knowing you have IBS could be key to a calmer relationship with volatile gut moods – phases of pain, constipation, or diarrhoea.
FODMAPs are short-chain carbs in foods that are poorly absorbed and can end up fermenting in the small intestine, causing cramps; gas; bowel-habit changes. Following a diet low in FODMAPs can help.
- You can’t eat… Wheat and rye; apples and pears; onions, leeks, garlic, cauliflower and mushrooms; dairy and soya milk, and cream cheese.
- You can eat… Gluten-free bread, potatoes, rice; berries and bananas; green tops of spring onions, spinach, carrots, tomatoes; almond milk, and Cheddar cheese.
Simply type ‘FODMAPS foods chart’ into your search engine or click here to find reliable listings of foods that are low in these short-chain carbs, or…