Eating well to support gut health
This is a popular topic now as we are learning more about how our gut influences our health and wellbeing. The gut contains a community of bacteria that supports our immune health, helps with digestion, produces vitamins such as folate, vitamin K, niacin (B3), B12, breaks down fibre which creates short-chain fatty acids that feed the bacteria, and protects us from disease and illness. Our gut bacteria are unique to us, with over 1,000 different bacteria living inside us throughout our lifetime. So, how do you look after it?
Starting with a balanced diet containing a variety of fibre rich foods is the best place to start. The guidelines state we should all consume 30g of fibre a day. Ensure you drink plenty of fluids to support digestion and prevent constipation.
Fibre rich foods include:
- Wholemeal bread (2 slices) = wholegrain, granary, mixed-grain, seeded, and soya-linseed and rye.
- Wholegrains: buckwheat, bulgur, cornmeal, polenta, couscous, farro, rice (brown, wild, red and black), rye, spelt, millet, barley, quinoa, and oats.
- Beans: black, black-eyed, broad, chickpeas, kidney, lentils, lima, mung, peas, pinto, runner, peanuts and adzuki.
- Wholewheat or bran breakfast cereal.
- Fruits and vegetables including potatoes with the skin left on.
- Wholewheat pastas, crackers, cereal bars, oat cakes, plain popcorn, and wholegrain scones.
- Alliums: chives, garlic, leeks, onions, shallots, and spring onions.
Whilst increasing your fibre intake, aim to chose more lean meat and fish sources, drink skimmed or semi-skimmed milk and grill rather than fry foods to reduce fat intake. If you suffer with gut issues and digestive problems, try reducing your intake of caffeine, spicy foods, and fizzy drinks and talk to a registered doctor, dietitian (British Dietitian Association), or nutritionist (Association for Nutrition).
Creating a healthy relationship with yourself
September always feels like a chance to have a refresh and what better way than working on your relationship with yourself. Putting your energy into yourself, developing routines and habits that make you feel good and taking care of your health will ultimately lead to a sustainable lifestyle that will support you for years to come.
Start with mood, can you take care of your mental health on a day-to-day basis? Making time for your needs can help you feel empowered and improves self-confidence. Try journaling or making notes on your phone to keep track of your daily thoughts and feelings. Reach out to loved ones for a catch up. Looking after your emotional health is just as important as your physical health.
We all know how important sleep is, so how can you improve your sleep? Can you create a calming environment that allows you to reach 8 hours of sleep a night? More restful sleep leads to better concentration throughout the day and allows your body to rest and recover.
Staying physically active can help you stay mobile for longer, increases endurance and flexibility, improves posture, and increases strength. All of this can support wider life goals such as being able to travel comfortably, being able to cook and support yourself independently, and getting involved in a variety of activities. At the core of it, developing habits that can support your overall physical and mental health in a manageable way will provide greater lifelong happiness.
Francesca Vuolo is a registered associate nutritionist with a BSc (Hons) Nutrition and MSc in Nutrition and Behaviour. Her interests range from nutritional psychiatry, physical activity, nature, public health, and farming, which compliment her work. You can find out more on Instagram @flourishwithfran.
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