Take a look around your local supermarket or independent pharmacist and you’ll see a growing selection of products that are designed to promote a healthier or better-balanced gut microbiome. Collectively, the public is becoming much more gut-aware, but it can sometimes be difficult to see the bigger picture, and what makes it so important. The key is understanding how crucial the gut, including the trillions of bacteria that make up our microbiome, are to physical health and wellbeing. The gut is sometimes referred to as the ‘control tower’ of the body, and just like the engine in a car, it sometimes benefits from a little care and attention, to help it perform at its best. After all, a healthier, happier gut is more likely to positively influence other areas of our wellbeing; both physical and mental! The human body is a highly complex system, and your gut microbiome is constantly shifting and changing in composition. Because of this, there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to harnessing better gut health, but there are certain dietary and physical practices that are known to have particular advantage.
Below, we list five of our favourite easy steps that are believed to support a healthier gut. We want to give a simple overview, but don’t forget – your gut can be a complicated system! As ever, our blogs are hosted for informational purposes only, and should not be read or understood as medical advice. Your GP or healthcare practitioner should always be the first port of call and can offer tailored recommendation.
How can we begin our journey to better gut health with simple, actionable steps?
1. Fall back in love with fibre
Over generations, our diets shift and change. New foods and manufacturing processes change how we choose and consume food and drink products. One of the most glaring trends at the moment is the growing fibre gap. Collectively, we are not consuming enough fibre, day to day. The recommended daily intake of fibre is 30g per day, including 5g of prebiotic fibre (learn more about prebiotic fibre here!).
Studies on behalf of Public Health England show that just 9%1 of adults in the UK are meeting the recommended daily intake, in a challenge known as the ‘fibre gap’. Fibre can be found naturally in a diverse range of foods, so try to add more to your everyday diet. Look for wheats and wholegrain products such as high-fibre breakfast cereals to start your day off the right way. For lunch, why not enjoy a jacket potato? Just remember to leave the skin on, as that’s where most of the fibre is! You’ll also find fibre in many fruits and vegetables, although in smaller amounts, so you may need to eat more of them (around 5-10 portions a day) to get a similar benefit.
2. Find your happy place
Just like your brain, your gut can be sensitive to stress. The two can send signals to each other through mechanisms known as the ‘gut-brain axis’. If you’ve ever wondered why you may feel nauseous when you’re nervous, or where that ‘hangry’ feeling comes from – that might just be why! Studies show that high-stress levels can disrupt beneficial gut bacteria, which may ultimately limit their benefits to the body. So, keep it calm! Whether it’s guided meditation, a little time aside for reading, or a warm bath and some me-time, taking a regular opportunity to unwind and de-stress can help support the good gut bacteria that we rely on.
3. Keep it moving
There are many known benefits to a regular exercise regime, and it’s not just for developing muscle and cardio health! Physical activity can help prevent constipation and can even increase the range of helpful microbes in your gut! Click here to discover more. Whether it’s cycling, swimming, running, yoga or pilates – or anything in-between - find physical activity that you love and aim for 30 active minutes each day. Get the blood pumping and support your gut bacteria at the same time!
4. Think plant!
A rich and diverse diet is essential to give the body all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals it needs. We can obtain many of these nutrients naturally through our day to day diet but choosing more plant-based foods can certainly help us to acquire more of them! Plant-based foods are packed with nutrients that are important for gut health. We all know the recommendation of 5-10 portions of fruit and vegetables per day, so a plate featuring lots of colourful fruits and veggies could be a great way to help support gut health.
5. Power up with prebiotics
As we know, fibre is beneficial to the gut, but it’s useful to take a special look at prebiotic fibre! This is soluble dietary fibre that fuels and nourishes ‘good bacteria’ bacteria in the gut. When we talk about good gut health, often we mean the balance of good bacteria that are associated with certain health benefits, and ‘bad bacteria’ that isn’t beneficial to health. Guideline recommendations are 5g of prebiotic fibre a day, so be sure to top up your intake with fruits, veggies, oats, wholegrains and seeds, as well as pulses such as lentils, chickpeas, beans and legumes! For some individuals, the recommended daily intake of fibre isn’t achievable or easily accessible, which is where a prebiotic supplement might be used.
In summary, while your gut may be complicated, starting a journey towards better gut health doesn’t need to be! Explore the simple ways we can begin to support the trillions of bacteria that help our bodies every day.
Looking to learn more about the gut bacteria and how we can give them a helping hand? You’ll find a wealth of information on the Bimuno learning hub.
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