I trained as a nutrition and weight management advisor back in 2017. I learned how to balance diets and all about the common topics of fats, proteins, carbs, vitamins and minerals. I studied post and prenatal nutrition, sports nutrition and childhood obesity. It was a long thorough course that I’m very glad I did, allowing me to help many people to lose weight and to analyse and understand their own eating habits. But! Sadly there was very little on gut health and the microbiome. Now this wasn’t because it was a bad course, far from it, it was that this is all fairly new research and unfortunately many organisations and information like the Eat Well Plate are based on outdated and under researched information on food.
I am no expert on gut health but it utterly and totally fascinates me. The more I learn, the more I want to know, and the more I know, the more I realise how vital this information is to everyone’s health.
Our bodies are amazing and totally fuelled by what we put in them. Everything we eat our body breaks down, take what it needs and disposes of the waste. Sometimes I think we all need to really think about that. We are not machines, we can’t program our digestive tract to deal with a new highly processed chemical or highly processed foods. Sadly most of the food that we eat has been so tampered with that I don’t recognise half the things on the label. Food has been changed so that buzz words like low fat, free from, calorie free and added vitamins can be used. Now that’s a brain fry when you think about it! Altering and tampering with products and chemically enhancing food with artificial components to make it healthier!
So as I mentioned earlier I am no expert but I have been trying to read and learn as much as I can about the microbiome that live in our digestive systems. These amazing little microbes are responsible for breaking down the food we eat and keeping our guts clean and healthy. Together they make up a vast crucial organ in our bodies. So it’s only right that we look after them.
It doesn’t matter whether you follow a diet with meat, plant based, vegetarian or vegan. All these diets have the potential to be healthy or unhealthy. We need to start to think more about the quality of our own diets and be more concerned with what we are putting inside our bodies rather than following fad diets and food trends and striving to reduce calories.
These microbiome need a few things from us:
- To receive food that they actually know what to do with! All the artificial food that is now so readily available is playing havoc with the gut as it’s so processed or chemically enhanced that our bodies quiet frankly don’t know what to do with a lot of it, more often than not turning it into fat! This is something that I have slowly changed myself over the last 6 months is to go back to full fat, untampered with, natural food. I had got into a terrible rut of eating tinned soup with its 20 grams of sugar or snacking on too much low calorie (artificially sweetened) food. I try to eat purchased products with less than 10 ingredients as a rule of thumb.
- Try to give your gut microbiome good quality food. I do fully understand that fresh organic food is not cheap, but if you can introduce the odd organic fruit and vegetables than please do so. In the spring grow what you can in your garden, window boxes or balconies. Keep fresh herbs on your window ledge or if you are really lucky pick fresh fruit from a community orchard. Sadly I just find it impossible to believe that pesticides are entirely safe and not damaging to our health!
- Try to give your gut microbiome a break so they can do their jobs, rest and multiply. This can’t happen if you are always eating. I started practicing mild fasting 4 months ago and haven’t looked back. I try to ensure that I give my body between 12 and 14 hours rest a day from eating, during this time I drink water and fruit teas but avoid normal tea as the milk would break the fast! If you eat late in the evening don’t be afraid to skip breakfast and if you stop eating early in the evening breakfast may be right for you.
- Give them a little boost! Myself and a few of my friends have become very interested in introducing gut boosting foods into our diets here are my top 4:
Sauerkraut – I have a batch currently fermenting in my cupboard and I’m very excited about trying it. This fermented cabbage dish is incredibly nutritious and packed with probiotics and vitamins K2 and C.
Natural yogurt – preferably not pasteurised as the heated cooking process kills a lot of the bacteria. I go for a organic natural yogurt and top with berries. Rich in nutrients, protein and probiotics, may also strengthen the immune system.
Kefir – healthy fermented drink with a slight fizz, traditionally made from milk. Aids digestion and suggested to boost the immune system.
Sourdough – This is going to be my next switch and I will be sure to eat whole wheat. The lower phytate levels in sourdough means it’s more digestible and nutritious. Probiotics will also help to keep your cared for gut bacteria happy.
So take some time out to look in your cupboards and fridge and question your gut health and maybe consider making a few changes. It’s an oldie but a good one. You are what you eat! But so much more than that. You are everything that you put into your body, it is the vessel that carries you and deserves your respect and care. If you can make a few changes and add a few gut friendly foods I promise your digestive system will thank you for it.
Recommended reads- books by Tim Spector, especially Spoon Fed
Podcasts by Dr Chatterjee