Although the Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates said nearly 2500 years ago that all disease begins in the gut, the science of the gut microbiome and its effect on our health has become widespread knowledge just over recent years. The online world has been flooded with gut health advice, programs, and supplements that are often costly and inefficient. Wouldn’t it be great to get some simple tips on keeping your gut healthy?
Before we move on to the practical tips, let me explain a few words that you might not know or find confusing. Probiotics are foods or supplements that contain live microorganisms intended to maintain or improve the normal microflora in the body.
Prebiotics are foods that act as food for human microflora. These are typically high-fibre foods such as vegetables and fruits. Ultra-processed foods are packaged foods that are low in fibre and nutrients and high in calories and artificial additives. They usually contain numbered ingredients, ultra-processed/hydrogenated vegetable and seed oils, ‘cosmetic’ additives such as flavours, flavour enhancers, colours, emulsifiers, emulsifying salts, artificial sweeteners, thickeners, and anti-foaming, bulking, carbonating, foaming, gelling and glazing agents, and ultra-processed soy.
If you want to learn more about the gut and how it affects your health, check my previous blog post here. Otherwise, let’s move on to the practical part.
DON’T DO IT!!!
Avoid all gut-damaging foods and habits listed in our blog on gut health.
- ULTRA-PROCESSED FOODS contain sugar or sweeteners, artificial preservatives, harmful vegetable oils, and other additives that affect the microbiome and can damage the gut lining. Highly processed foods are also generally low in fibre, which is food for good gut bugs.
- The OILS you should avoid are any hydrogenated or re-heated vegetable oils such as soybean, canola, corn, safflower, sunflower, peanut, vegetable oils, margarine and other butter substitutes and vegetable shortening. These oils are inflammatory when eaten in excess or when reheated. To get your fats, eat avocado, nuts, olives, fatty fish and fish oils and cook with olive oil, grass-fed butter, or any nut oil.
- SUGAR OR ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS. Excessive sugar destroys collagen, which is the main structural component in the gut lining. Regular consumption of some artificial sweeteners may negatively alter the gut microbiome.
- Accidental CHEMICAL CONSUMPTION, such as drinking tap water or eating unwashed fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are sprayed with harmful pesticides that destroy everything! Imagine what that does to your sensitive gut bugs. Fluoride is also harmful to the gut bacterial balance. It’s meant to be used topically on teeth and not internally.
- Drinking ALCOHOL every day (even one glass) may damage the collagen in your gut lining and contribute to inflammation.
- MEDICATIONS, especially antibiotics and painkillers, can be damaging if taken in excess and when not needed.
- POOR DENTAL HYGIENE, which allows bacteria to grow out of balance in your mouth, affects food breakdown, absorption, and gut health down the line.
- High levels of STRESS AND ANXIETY, which causes inflammation due to chronically elevated cortisol. This will mainly weaken your immune system and ability to absorb nutrients.
- THE ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELD (EMF) RADIATION from mobile phones disrupts the bacteria on our skin, as indicated by scientific research. Based on this, there’s a hypothesis that if we have our mobile phones or laptops near our stomachs, it could also affect our gut microbiome.
Adopt these strategies to keep your gut healthy.
- Eat fermented foods daily. They contain probiotics and have a huge impact on gut bacteria composition compared to other nutritional strategies. Start with one serving per day and build up to 4.
- Eat 600g of non-starchy vegetables a day to get your prebiotics. The fibre and micronutrients they contain are beneficial for gut bacteria.
- Add resistant starch such as cooked and cooled sweet potato and rice or green banana starch to feed your gut bugs. Resistant starch goes through your stomach and small intestine undigested, eventually reaching your colon, where it feeds your friendly gut bacteria. Resistant starch reduces the pH level, potently reduces inflammation, and leads to several beneficial changes that reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and symptoms of many digestive disorders.
- Consume collagen peptides and bone broth daily to heal your gut lining. Yes, our collagen bars help with that too.
- Eat grass-fed and finished meat and butter that’s free of hormones and antibiotics. Grain-fed meat is high in omega-6 fatty acids and is likely to contain pesticides (from grains). No time to cook? Try some biltong or a beef bar. Easy does it.
- Eat foods high in polyphenols such as berries, dark leafy vegetables, olives, herbs, spices (cloves, peppermint, and star anise are the highest in polyphenols of all spices), cocoa powder, coffee, and tea. Polyphenols promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut and limit harmful bacteria.
- Drink 2-3L of filtered water daily.
- Wash your vegetables in filtered water.
- Exercise regularly; it can change your microbiome just after six weeks! Those who exercise regularly at moderate-to-high intensity have more diverse microflora and a higher abundance of beneficial bacteria.
- Sleep 7-8 hours every night. Our gut bugs seem to influence how we sleep and vice-versa. Sleep and circadian rhythms are thought to affect the health and diversity of the gut microbiome.
- Take a cold shower every morning. This will stimulate the vagus nerve, the largest nerve in our body that connects our brain and gut. Stimulating our vagus nerve can improve mood, digestion, and sleep and decrease stress and inflammation levels.
Co-founder, Nutritionist, Exercise Physiologist