As the winter chill settles in, it's essential to prioritise your wellbeing, and one crucial aspect often overlooked is gut health. A healthy gut contributes not only to physical health but also improves our mental health too.
Following the excesses of Christmas, our gut health may need a bit of extra support to enter the new year in tip-top health. A healthy gut not only boosts your immune system during the colder months but also lays the foundation for a vibrant and energetic you.
Why is gut health so important
Our gut is referred to as our second brain for a good reason. Comprised of approximately 500 million neurons, our gut ‘brain’ does more than just aid digestion, it can even influence our thoughts which may be why when stressed we opt for comfort foods which we know are not good for us.
When our gut health is poor, we can experience all manner of physical and psychological effects from bloating to symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Signs of a Unhealthy Gut
Your gut microbiome needs the right balance of so called ‘good’ and ‘bad bacteria for optimal health. This delicate balance can be disrupted by factors such as a poor diet (like an increase in sugary and fatty Christmas foods), a period of stress or a course of antibiotics, which can cause the ‘bad’ bacteria to flourish.
If you are experiencing any of the following: bloating, digestive issues, a flare up of allergies and skin conditions or fatigue, you might be experiencing a gut imbalance and could benefit from improving your gut health.
Probiotics: Your Gut's Best Friends
Probiotics are packed full of ‘good’ bacteria and can help restore the equilibrium of your gut microbiome. There are many probiotic supplements on the market, but evidence suggests that eating food rich in probiotics is a more effective way of improving your gut health and have added nutritional benefits.
Prebiotics: Nourishing Your Gut Microbes
While probiotics garner attention, prebiotics are equally essential. Prebiotics help promote the activity and growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Luckily prebiotics are easy to include in your daily diet as many commonly used veg, such as garlic, onions and leeks are rich in the non-digestible fibres that are the perfect environment for happy gut bacteria.
The Gut-Healthy Larder
If you are stocking a gut healthy larder, then consider these great staples.
Fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut and kombucha are great for boosting gut health, but not all fermented foods are created equal. For the maximum benefit from your fermented food, choose those that are made with organic ingredients using natural processes with live cultures.
Fibre rich wholefoods such as, wholegrains, oats, beans and pulses play a vital role in promoting those all-important good bacteria as well as contributing to smooth digestive passage and contributing to overall health.
Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar is full of immune boosting bacteria and can make delicious dressings. Look for an apple cider vinegar containing the ‘mother’ (this will appear as a murky or stringy blob in the bottle) this is a sign that the vinegar is full of healthy live bacteria.
If this is a new way of eating for you, introduce these probiotic-rich foods gradually to allow your digestive system to adjust. Fermented foods may be an acquired taste, but there will be one to suit your palate.