- Snacking is good for the gut
Food spends an average of three hours winding through the gut to the large intestine. After it’s passed through the stomach and small intestine, millions of tiny villi carry out a “cleaning up” process which is essential for a healthy gut. In fact, that rumbling noise you sometimes hear is actually what happens when we leave long enough for this final cleaning to begin – and the stomach and small intestine both need to be empty for this to happen effectively. If you snack constantly throughout the day, you don’t allow your body the time it takes to carry out this process, resulting in the growth of bacteria. To avoid snacking, choose foods that are high in protein and fibre, that will help you feel fuller for longer.
- Microbiome home test kits can help you create a diet which is perfectly suited to your health
These tests are more popular than you might think. They involve sending a stool sample for analysis to determine which bacteria are living in your gut, how diverse your microbiome is and what specific nutrients or toxins are being produced. From these unique results, a customised diet plan is created just for you. The idea is to increase the good bacteria and lower the microbial strains associated with poor health, and give you advice on achieving a healthy weight with more energy and focus.
However, while the testing is scientifically sound, the conclusions that can be drawn from this kind of information is still very limited. The composition of your microbiome from one sample does not provide the complete picture – it’s a snapshot from a single moment in time. Even if you have your microbiome tested every day, there would be variations depending on what you ate, drank or the presence of medications, or transient illnesses such as colds or viruses.
Plus, scientists have yet to define what a healthy microbiome looks like. Several variations of bacterial species can be considered healthy, depending on ethnicity, sex, where you live, your age, metabolism and many other factors.
A simple way to optimise the health of your gut is to eat a diet including plenty of plant-based foods, that is high in fibre, fruit and vegetables and to limit your intake of high fat and sugar foods.
- Low carb diets are beneficial for your gut as well as your waistline
Carbohydrates are too often seen as the bad guys. But cutting them from your diet means depriving the body of natural fibre – our body’s preferred source of energy – as well as important micronutrients. Not great for our overall health and well-being, and not conducive to a healthy gut. Instead, stick to eating a diet rich in whole grains and legumes such as beans, peas, nuts and lentils (which are all naturally full of carbohydrates)which helps to keep our gut bacteria diverse and healthy and will have a positive impact on lots of other organs, including our skin, heart, and brain.
- Wheat is bad for your gut
There’s a minute proportion (1%) of people who can’t tolerate wheat due to an auto-immune condition called coeliac disease, which means your immune system attacks the gut when exposed to gluten. And some people may be sensitive to fructans, the fermentable carbohydrates found in many foods, that causes symptoms of IBS.
However, grain-based foods such as wheat, oats and rye are an important source of nutrients, including B vitamins for cell metabolism and dietary fibre for digestive health. Cutting out foods like wheat from your diet may create nutritional imbalances. If you think you have a wheat sensitivity, talk to your GP about ruling out coeliac disease and allergies. The next step is to see a registered dietitian to assess whether you’re reacting to fructans or have a gluten/wheat sensitivity, with symptoms including brain fog and fatigue. These are just a few of the gut health fads to look out for, there’s plenty more out there in magazines and on the internet. It’s important to do your research before making any changes to your diet, and avoid self-diagnosis. Speak to your GP if you’re unsure.
We hope this has been helpful! We’ve got plenty more information on everything from fibre
to FODMAP on our blog.