When it comes to gut health, there is a LOT to unpack. As a health professional, I need to ensure that I continue to evolve my practice and my approach to best help my clients.
One thing that I've added as part of my approach is encouraging my clients to address these pillars:
- Nutrition (obviously)
✓getting enough, good quality sleep
✓addressing stress or any mental health struggle
✓moving often and engaging in some strength training regularly
✓in combination with balanced, plant-based nourishment will have a tremendous impact on your health.
Let's dig deeper into each pillar:
The Bedrock of Gut Health – Nutrition
You need to be eating a balanced, colourful diet for optimal gut health – and when I say balanced, I mean balanced! No cutting out whole macronutrients for diets-sake. The three macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. So low/no carb and low/no fat diets are…you guessed it, NOT GOOD!
Carbs are your body's primary fuel source! They can be found in fruits, veggies, and beans. If you are avoiding carbs because you think they are bad or will make you gain weight, stop it right now! You need them to fuel your day to day life. You are limiting your performance potential by limiting your carb intake.
Protein helps muscle recovery, it supports the growth and repair of all body cells, and it helps with immune protection! Also – don't buy into the misconception that you have to shovel meat into your mouth to get your protein. Protein can be found in legumes, soy foods (tempeh, tofu, etc.), nuts and seeds, and grains (quinoa and amaranth). Also, please hold off on the protein supplements!
Fats (healthy fats, anyway) are crucial to a balanced diet and a well-nourished body! They help regulate hormones, absorb vitamins, fuel brain health, and more. Think EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), avocado, nuts, seeds, salmon and more!
You also want to make sure you're getting enough fibre. Fibre is a crucial part of your diet – it promotes healthy digestion and other health benefits like heart health. Fibre also slows the rate of digestion. Why is this important? By slowing the rate of digestion, it can slow down the rate of sugar being absorbed into the bloodstream, therefore it can stabilise your blood sugar levels.
Gut Health & Proper Sleep
Did you know that your microbiome and sleep are interconnected? Now you know! The gut and the brain are always talking – it is believed that poor sleep probably exerts a strong negative effect on gut health/microbiome diversity.
Like sleep, our microbiome is regulated by circadian rhythms. Research indicates that when circadian rhythms are disrupted, the health and functioning of the microbiome suffers.
Addressing Gut Health & Stress
Stress affects everyone differently, but it is a fact that stress levels affect your gut health.
Nutrition, movement and relaxation techniques together can help you cope better. It's easier said than done but does require commitment and consistency. Stress eating a real thing, and a lot of us tend to turn to unbalanced eating to help handle the pressure. And some others do the opposite: they don't eat at all. Here are two tips to help you start coping:
- Adopt a well balanced diet. Meal prep some balanced snacks (chopped vegetables with guacamole anyone? How about an apple with natural peanut butter?), a few meals that include a balanced plate (½ vegetables, ¼ carbohydrate and ¼ protein), and have a water bottle ready to go at all times!
- Correct any vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Magnesium (leafy greens), iron (beans, lentils), B vitamins (beef, shellfish, tofu), and Omega-3 Fatty Acids (salmon, trout, walnuts, flaxseed, algae) are all important! Make sure you include these guys in your diet.
Move Your Body if you Love Your Gut
Constipated? Have you leaned into the 3 Fs? Fluids, Fibre..and FITNESS!
YES! Exercising regularly helps to keep you…well, regular! Did you know that When we exercise, our intestines naturally contract and pass waste through our system?
Exercise can change the composition of your gut microbiome. If that is not reason enough to move your body, I don't know what is. A recent study found that participants who implemented a steady fitness regimen improved the healthy microbes in their gut after just six weeks.
The gut reverted back to its prior state after another six weeks of sedentary behaviour, proving that (as always) consistency is KEY!