Our gut health extends way beyond our digestion system. We are increasingly learning of the extent to which the state of our gut impacts on our overall health and wellbeing, including our weight, our immune health and our mental health.
Our bodies contain roughly 39 trillion bacterial cells and 30 trillion human cells, so we’re arguably more bacteria than human. Much of this bacteria resides in our gut and is known as our gut microbiome. In addition to helping our gut digest food, our gut bacteria carry out many other important roles, including producing vitamin K and B vitamins, vital for energy production.
Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is vital for many aspects of health.
Compromised digestive health, often labeled Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), affects up to 20% of the population in the UK. Common symptoms can include stomach pains and cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. These symptoms can significantly impact your daily quality of life.
Mild IBS symptoms can often be improved by taking steps to support your gut health which we will discuss below. However, some symptoms such as unintentional weight loss, rectal bleeding, severe pain and abdominal massess can indicate more serious issues. Always speak to your doctor if you’re worried as they will be able to test for issues like coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer and infections.
EATING FOR BETTER GUT HEALTH
So what can you do to optimise your gut health? Let’s keep things simple; the best way to see a positive change is to focus on whole, natural foods and avoid processed foods. Your gut loves variety so eat a wide range of fibre rich plant foods, especially vegetables. Think ‘eat the rainbow’. Probiotic (beneficial bacteria that lines the gut wall) and prebiotic foods (food for beneficial bacteria) are also highly supportive of gut health. Include kefir, tempeh and sauerkraut for probiotics and garlic, onions and leeks for prebiotics.
FOODS TO AVOID
As well as keeping highly processed foods to a minimum, it’s also worth working to establish whether specific foods worsen your gut symptoms. To do this you can and keep a food and symptoms diary noting down everything you eat as well as any symptoms you experience to identify any food triggers.
Eliminating these from your diet for a period of time can help you establish for sure whether they are the culprit. Common IBS triggers include dairy and gluten containing foods.
IS THERE A PILL FOR THAT?
Supplements can be hugely beneficial when it comes to improving your gut health. The key is to choose the right supplement for you. If you feel as though certain foods are harder to digest, or like they sit in your stomach, try a broad spectrum digestive enzyme supplement that can support the breakdown of food.
If you often suffer with bloating, probiotics could help. These are the beneficial bacteria that line your gut wall. A daily supplement like Symprove can make a big difference.
If you often experience constipation, avoid irritating laxatives like herbal, senna based products. Start with a good fibre supplement like Renew Life Daily Digestive Fibre. Magnesium and triphala are also good supplements to try.
The gut is a complex organ. If you suffer with IBS symptoms and haven’t been able to tackle them through improving your diet and trying supplements like those suggested above, further investigations can be done to get to the route of the issue. At our clinic, we offer a comprehensive at home gut health test that can give insight into the underlying issues causing symptoms. If you’d like to find out more please get in touch.