“All disease starts in the gut”, this is a refrain that often repeats itself in my head from my training over a decade ago.

We often take the body for granted and many of us ignore signs that the body is ‘under par’.  This is very typical through our young adult lives.  Why?  Because we can still preform; out all night and back to work in the morning.  Not feeling well and still play that sport (and join the after-match function).  We feel invincible, we take the physical bounce back for granted.  But what happens when this continues for years & the bounce back takes longer to achieve?  When losing a dress size can’t be achieved in a week?  When there is no energy in the tank, food cravings are out of control & the abdomen feels spongy and uncomfortable?  When we are quickly sick with colds, flus and covid?

Could a part of the solution be taking care of gut health?  Or at the very least, paying attention to the gut?

The gut, often referred to as the “second brain,” plays a pivotal role in well-being, influencing everything from digestion, immunity, cravings and hormones to mood regulation and headspace (anxiety and depression).

The gut microbiome, composed of trillions of microorganisms including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, inhabits our gastrointestinal tract. This complex ecosystem aids in digestion and nutrient absorption but also interacts with our immune system and influences various physiological processes. A balanced and diverse gut microbiome is crucial for maintaining overall health and preventing disease.

Factors Affecting Gut Health:

  1. Diet: What we eat directly impacts the health of our gut. A diet of fibre, fruit, vegetables, and fermented foods promotes microbial diversity and a healthy gut environment (I like to think of it as a bacterial jungle). Conversely, diets high in processed foods, sugar, and trans fats disrupt microbial balance and contribute to inflammation.
  2. Lifestyle: Factors such as stress, sleep patterns, and physical activity levels can affect gut health. Chronic stress, in particular, can alter gut microbiota composition and increase susceptibility to gastrointestinal disorders.
  3. Medications: Certain medications, such as antibiotics, disrupt the gut microbiome by killing off all bacteria (the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’). It’s useful to consider probiotic supplementation during and after antibiotic treatment to support gut health. Talk to an expert to get the correct type.
  4. Environmental Exposures: Environmental factors like pollution, pesticides, and exposure to toxins can impact gut health by altering the composition of the microbiome and compromising gut barrier function.

How to Nurture a Healthy Gut:

  1. Eat whole, nutrient-dense food; fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats. Prioritize fibre-rich foods like legumes, nuts, seeds and leafy greens, which provide prebiotics that nourish beneficial gut bacteria.

I ‘seriously dislike’ the term “eat a balanced diet”.  I prefer the concept of ‘eat real food’.

  1. Include Fermented Foods: Yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha contain probiotics, beneficial bacteria that support gut health. Incorporating fermented foods into your diet can help replenish and maintain a diverse gut microbiome.
  2. Manage Stress: Practice stress-reducing techniques such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or spending time in nature. Prioritizing relaxation and self-care can help mitigate the harmful effects of chronic stress on gut health.
  3. Quality Sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night, as inadequate sleep can disrupt gut microbiota and compromise immune function. Establishing a consistent sleep schedule and creating a relaxing bedtime routine can improve sleep quality.
  4. Hydration: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to support digestion, nutrient absorption, and overall gut health. Herbal teas and infused water can also provide hydration while offering additional health benefits.
  5. Limit Toxins: Minimize exposure to environmental toxins by choosing organic produce, using natural cleaning and personal care products, and avoiding unnecessary exposure to pollutants and chemicals.

Prioritizing gut health is essential for overall well-being and disease prevention. By adopting a balanced diet, managing stress, getting adequate sleep, and minimizing exposure to toxins, we can support a thriving gut microbiome and enjoy improved digestion, immunity, and vitality.  The ‘second brain’, despite being tucked (and hidden) into the abdomen, it needs thoughtful attention to thrive.

Always, small changes lead to significant improvements in gut health over time.