‘Taking care of your body no matter what your age is an investment’ – Oprah Winfrey
Gut health is indicative of your overall health and simple habits can really help to make a difference. If you don’t take care of your body, where are you going to live?!
The gut plays a very important role in your body, it is the first interface with external environment – what you take in your body goes to the gut. 70% of your immune system is in the gut – a surveillance mechanism which enables you to listen to your body.
Trust your gut, it is your second brain – Listen to your gut, it won’t steer you wrong. Listen to the symptoms your body is saying. Ignoring these can lead to presenting with chronic conditions. Your gut connects to your heart, stomach, kidneys and liver, lungs – important part of the nervous system. It is interesting to know that more information goes to the brain from the gut than comes back.
Signs of an unhealthy gut: Digestive issues, bloating, pain, cramping shortly after eating, needing to go to the toilet also, headaches, mood swings, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, especially Vitamin D -if not in optimal range of 90-100 is a sign of a disgruntled gut, lack of energy, fatigue, food cravings, depression, any ‘itis’ conditions – colititis, arthritis, sinusitis. Skin problems also – If you cannot eliminate through the gut, faeces or kidneys, then through the skin.
There are many studies linking inflammation to Autoimmune Conditions. Inflammatory foods – processed foods, fast foods, trans-fats, sugar, alcohol etc can over time create an inflammatory response and lead to chronic illness. Try to avoid these and adopt the approach of life by the 80/20 rule. You are what you eat! Certain healthy foods are inflammatory in certain individuals – peppers, tomatoes, aubergines – ‘nightshade’ foods.
Pay attention to what you are eating – keep a food diary- observe any symptoms. Do an elimination of these foods, for three weeks to get rid of any residues of foods from system and gently reintroduce over a three-day period to monitor any flare-up or return of symptoms.
Rotation of foods is very important – every three days. Avoid eating the same range of foods. Try one new food every week. This helps to introduce variety, reduce incidences of food intolerance and helps to avoid inflammation.
With meat and dairy – choose organic if possible. Know what your food is eating! Check out the dirty dozen, the clean fifteen – less pesticide residue. In relation to vegetable -if you can’t peel it – opt for organic! For other foods always read ingredients list on food labels – if you need a science degree to decipher what you are eating, put it back on the shelf!
Healthy Gut foods: – Water -we are 90% water, our body cells need water. The body will take water from other peripheral organs, skin or colon to get what it needs if you are not drinking enough. Do not let yourself become thirsty – sip throughout the day. Avocadoes -produce short chain fatty acids, which are fuel for the gut microbiota, in turn making neurotransmitters, enzymes, protein- body building tissue for repair and renew. Salad vegetables are especially important.
Here are some top tips for maintaining digestive wellness:
1. Eat a more plant-based diet to up your Fibre
Increase your fibre and water intake to feel better fast. Fibre acts like a sweeping brush for the gut. Fibre is found in plant foods such as fruit, vegetables and wholegrain foods, but also nuts, seeds, beans, legumes. The easiest way to up your fibre intake is to eat a variety of colourful fruit and vegetables at every meal. Eat a rainbow every day! Aim to fill half your plate with vegetables at dinner time and eat potatoes with the skins on! Add a tablespoon of seeds to breakfasts or salads, beans or lentils bulk up a stew or soup. Snack on some nuts for an energy boost. Stewed apple is great for your gut.
2. Eat Probiotics
Yogurt, kefir, komboucha, miso, kimchi sauerkraut and tempeh all contain natural probiotics, which help increase the ‘good’ bacteria in your gut. They also help with weight management, keep your digestion healthy and boost your immune system. To keep gut bacteria thriving, you need to feed them so eat plenty of plant-based foods. Start with a teaspoon and build up. Buy or grow your own!
3. Add Prebiotics to your diet
Prebiotics are types of fibre found in foods like leeks, cabbage, bananas, apples and nuts, to name a few. They can help to promote the overall health of the gut and may also play a role in immune function.
4. Chew well and eat slowly
Digestion begins in the mouth and chewing your food well is a very important part of this process. Food should be almost liquid when swallowing. Remember your stomach doesn’t have teeth! Drinking with food or eating too quickly increases the swallowing of air, leading to gas build-up and bloating. Take about 20 mins to relax and enjoy your meal.
By Ruth Farragher
Ruth has worked in the Irish education sector for the last two decades. Graduating with a Bachelor of Education in 2002 she taught Home Economics, Nutrition and Health and culinary life skills to post-primary students. Pursuing a keen interest in nutrition, health and wellness she qualified as a Nutritional Therapist in 2013 and worked with clients in a private capacity over the last number of years. She has contributed to health-related articles and speaking events over the years. She currently works as a Guidance Counsellor in Dublin where she is passionate about supporting young people with their mental health and well-being, their future educational and career opportunities and believes in offering a holistic therapeutic approach.
- PGDipGuidance Counselling; NUIM,
- Dip Nutritional Therapy (ITEC); IINH
- Diploma Event Management and PR; Fitzwilliam Institute
- BEd Post Primary Teaching-Home Economics;TCD
- Member of IGC, NTOI