Five Steps to a Healthy Gut

01/08/2016 13:06 | Updated 01 August 2016

How healthy is your gut? If you struggle with ongoing digestive symptoms its time to take action. What's more the latest research is revealing the state of our gut bacteria may be the key to boosting weight loss, improving our mood, immunity and skin health too. So if you're looking to give your health a boost it's time to start with the gut.

The collection of bacteria living in and on our body known as the 'microbiome' consists of about 100 trillion bacterial cells, the highest concentration of which is in your gut. The diversity and number of these bacteria is influenced by our diet, genetics and lifestyle Unfortunately many people have a depleted microbiome because of a poor diet that's high in sugar, refined carbohydrate grains, processed foods and artificial sweeteners or antibiotics.

Here's a summary of the key steps to follow

First get out aggravating foods during the programme

Alcohol & Caffeine - Irritates our gut lining and disrupts blood sugar which can impact the gut. Try dandelion coffee, green tea or rooibos tea instead.

Grains - Particularly gluten grains (wheat, barley, rye) can irritate the gut lining so instead pile your plates with vegetables which can help friendly bacteria to thrive.

Beans and pulses - known to contain irritating compounds such as lectins which can be difficult to break down and can result in bloating.

Dairy - for some people dairy is a common allergen although fermented dairy such as kefir and yogurt may be more easily tolerated.

Sugar / artificial sweeteners - contributes to an imbalance in our gut flora (whole fruit is fine)

As we age digestive secretions can decline so boost them naturally by including lemon juice in warm water before meals or apple cider vinegar. Bitters and greens like rocket, watercress, chicory can also increase secretions so include a side salad with meals. Other foods naturally contain digestive enzymes such as pineapple and papaya and can be helpful. Certain foods like beetroot, artichokes can support liver and bile which are also important for digestive health so include these in your diet.

Time to improve the friendly bacteria in your gut. Fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and homemade pickles are natural ways to boost your levels.

Add in prebiotics. Some vegetables and fruits are particularly powerful as they feed good bacteria allowing them to flourish in your gut. Include bananas, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, fennel, apples, pak choi, leeks and onions.

Medications, stress and poor diet can damage the delicate gut lining. You can repair this by including protein rich foods (meat, chicken, fish, eggs etc) at each meal. You will need about 60-80g protein a day. One egg contains around 6-7g and 100g chicken contains around 20g so you would need 3-4 portions a day. Chicken broth and bone broths are great healing foods as these are rich in collagen which is important for the gut lining.

Making lifestyle changes can long term improve your gut function. Watch stress and take steps to unwind. Chew your food properly and take time to sit and eat your meals rather than eating on the go. Avoid eating too late - studies have shown you can improve digestive function if you can allow 12-14 hours overnight without eating. So aim to finish your evening meal by 7pm if you can. Avoid snacking - try and stick to regular meals and avoid over eating.

The Gut Health Diet Plan: Recipes to Improve Digestive Health and Boost Well­being by Christine Bailey Nourish Books. 2016
ISBN-10: 1848997337