Registered dietitian and founder of The Gut Health Doctor and Bio&Me, Dr Megan Rossi (PhD, RF) tells us five easy ways to look after our gut health
Boosting your gut health is key to transforming your overall health and wellbeing. It starts with your gut microbiota – the trillions of microbes that live within us. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, here are my top tips to start your gut health journey.
1. Eat as much variety of plant-based foods as you can – the more the merrier!
Aim for 30 different types of plant-based foods every week full of gut-loving fibre and prebiotics, including fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds. You see, the more plant-based variety in your diet, the more diverse range of gut microbes, which is linked to the health of pretty much every organ in the body, including your skin, heart and brain. That’s why I’ve created my Bio&Me granola with 15 different types of plant goodness all in one. It may sound like a high number but making simple swaps, such as snacking on mixed nuts instead of just one type, going for yellow, orange and green peppers in your stir-fry instead of just red, and sprinkling mixed seeds onto your breakfast, helps it quickly add up.
2. Say no to restrictive diets, detoxes or cleanses and make friends with carbs
Looking after your gut health is all about inclusivity and moderation. Overly restrictive diets can not only starve your gut bacteria and put you at risk of nutritional deficiencies, but they can also create a damaging relationship with food. Your kidney and your liver – the main detoxing organs – do just fine with your body’s detoxification without expensive juice diets or colon cleanses. Carbs have been unfairly stigmatised too, but they’re not to be feared! Fibre is a type of carbohydrate, which nourishes our gut microbes (it’s their favourite food) and keeps them happy. Wholegrains and legumes (two key sources of carbs) have also been linked with lower bodyweight.
3. Move your body and get outdoors
We all know exercise is good for us – and our gut microbes benefit from it, too. Exercise helps to regulate your bowel habits and increase the diversity of your gut microbes, which is linked to better overall health. Sustained exercise is key, so move your body regularly, getting your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes most days. Gut-directed yoga, as I share in my book, has also been found to be equally as effective as diet changes for reducing IBS symptoms.
4. Boost your sleep quality and de-stress
Sleep and stress can have a big impact on our gut health. To help combat stress and rewire the gutbrain axis, just 15 minutes a day of meditation (or using a mindfulness app) has been shown to make a significant difference after eight weeks. Try improving your sleep quality by setting a regular bedtime routine with relaxation exercises, limiting caffeine after 3pm and scheduling ‘worry time’ during your day to write down your thoughts and free up your head space before bed.
5. Dabble in fermented foods
Incorporating traditional fermented foods with live cultures into your diet not only makes meals super-tasty, but they’re also linked to a whole host of potential health benefits – from lowering blood pressure to supporting our immunity. While the clinical evidence is currently limited, anecdotally I’ve seen the physical and mental benefits. My favourites include live yoghurt, kefir (fermented milk), kombucha (fermented tea), natto (fermented soybeans), kimchi and sauerkraut (fermented cabbage). It’s easy to make your own at home too using the recipes in my book, Eat Yourself Healthy.
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Dr Megan Rossi is a research Fellow at King’s College London and author of Eat Yourself Healthy (Penguin Life, £16.99). Connect with Megan at theguthealthdoctor.com @theguthealthdoctor.