BY JACINTA BRINNAND
The best way to support your gut health at any stage of life is through a holistic approach. This includes gut nourishing nutrition, stress reduction and self-care techniques such as mindfulness, movement to maintain a healthy weight and getting plenty of sleep.
As a Naturopath, I am trained to tailor a treatment plan specifically for one’s individual symptoms. However, from a general perspective, if you follow these basic guidelines you may notice a difference in your overall wellbeing.
Remove factors that can be causing damage to your gut
- If you know you have an allergy or intolerance to a specific food or food group, remove it from your diet for a period of time. This may allow the body to decrease inflammation caused by the intolerance. It is best to seek a professional to guide you through this process.
- Reduce or remove processed food. This includes deli meats, sauces brought in a jar, junk food and most take-aways.
- Reduce intake of Omega-6 fatty acids. There is a specific ratio needed by the body of Omega’s 3:6:9. Unfortunately our Western diets are very high in Omega 6 and low in Omega 3. When this ratio is out of balance, systemic inflammation increases may lead to an increased risk of inflammatory conditions such as mood disturbance, some heart conditions and metabolic disorders. High amounts of Omega 6 are found in vegetable oils and margarine which are common ingredients in processed foods.
- Stress plays a vital role in our gut health. The gut-brain axis is very strong with each affecting the functioning of the other. Exploring ways to reduce or manage your stress is extremely beneficial.
- Be mindful about medications. Obviously if you are prescribed a medication for a health condition it is very important that you follow the advice of your health professional. However, if you do have the choice to take or not take antibiotics then you may wish to err on the side of caution as they can have a dramatic effect on your gut microbiota. The same goes for anti-inflammatories medications. This type of medication may increase the permeability of your gut wall and may cause irritation if not taken carefully.
Replace with what may be missing in your life or diet
- It is always good to start with the basics – take the time to prepare, sit and eat your meals properly. Chewing your food instead of swallowing it and rushing off to the next thing will also support your gastrointestinal tract (GIT) to break down the nourishing components of what you are eating. Also, allow a decent amount of time in between meals so your GIT gets a break. Usually 4 hours is beneficial.
- Add healthy fats in to your diet. A simple way to do this is swapping your cooking oils and dressings to olive oil, coconut oil and/or butter. Other healthy fat additions are avocados, nuts and seeds and wild caught fish (especially salmon) as they help to balance the ratio of Omegas 3:6:9.
- Eat a diet high in fibre. Fibre is a great way to help diversify your gut microbiota. It also helps to reduce constipation and other bowel issues as well as keep your weight controlled. Sources of fibre include fresh vegetables, beans and pulses (kidney, black, chickpeas, lentils) and unrefined, wholegrains such as oats, millet, quinoa etc.
- Schedule in relaxation time. This is so very important for stress management and is often the first thing overlooked. Have a think about what relaxes you. Is it reading a book, seeing a movie, having a nap, having a catch up with friends, taking the dog for a walk. Really think about it and schedule it in to your every day.
- Drink plenty of water. It has been said so many times before, however it is of great value. Good hydration equals good stool elimination as the water absorbed in your gut hardens stool for easy passing of waste products. Aim for 25-30ml per kg of body weight.
Repair damage and help protect for your future gut health
- Probiotic foods also known as fermented foods may help to populate your gut with good bacteria and help keep balance of bacteria in your microbiome. These foods include sauerkraut, kim chi, kefir, miso, tempeh and live cultured yogurt.
- Prebiotic foods may help to feed the bacteria in your gut in order for them to stay alive, healthy and in balance. Foods such as asparagus, eggplant, broccoli, kale, cabbage, garlic, endives, onion, artichoke, leeks, pulses and chicory are good choices.
- Anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric, leafy greens, nuts, fatty fish, tomatoes and fruit may help to keep gut inflammation low increasing the integrity of your mucosal linings and optimising your guts ability to do its job.
- Glutamine is a well-researched amino acid associated with gut repair. It is found in beef, poultry, raw spinach, almonds, cabbage and organic milk products.
- Remember if you have a known intolerance to food it is best to remove it for a period of time, however seek the help of a professional to guide you.
- Sourcing your food is very important as is buying seasonal fruit and vegetables. With poultry try to purchase organic or free range. With beef chose grass feed and with fruit and vegetables chose organic or spray free.
- Everything in moderation has benefits. You may like to try having meat free days in order to increase your consumption of pulses, legumes and vegetables.
- Enjoy your food, eat with friends or family, make it a social event where you share food and stories.
This article was kindly written for Wellbeing Australia by Jacinta Brinnand. Jacinta is a Naturopath at Nourished by Nature, and has a special interest in adolescent gut health. The content contained in this article is general information only and if you have any concerns you should see a healthcare professional who can address your specific needs.