If you’re finding that your stomach is constantly in a mind of its own – alternating from bloating to diarrhoea, constipation to cramping – then, with the holidays just around the corner, it could be time to look a little deeper.
Referred to by many health experts as the body’s ‘second brain’, the gut is a hugely powerful organ, responsible for 70 per cent of the body’s immune and wellbeing system, well beyond our gastrointestinal tract. The gut has even been linked to mood disorders like migraines and anxiety, as well as skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
So how can we help to ensure our gut bacteria are in check and how do we restore our levels of ‘good’ bacteria?
Trusting your gut
Our intestines contain gut microbiota, or gut flora, a population of tens of trillions of micro-organisms, including hundreds of different species of bacteria. These bacteria work together to support your immune system, ensuring your body absorbs nutrients effectively, and disposes of waste regularly.
It’s thought that when the amounts of good and bad bacteria become unbalanced, issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), immune, skin and other health problems, such as vaginal thrush, may occur.
How to redress the balance (and boost the ‘good’ gut bugs)
Probiotics have been shown to be one of the most valuable and natural solutions to the improvement of digestive health. They help to restore and replenish the good, natural bacteria in the digestive system and reduce the growth of harmful organisms (particularly important if you’ve come off a dose of antibiotics).
Supplementing with a high-quality daily probiotic may help to rebalance the bacteria in your gut, and help manage gastrointestinal issues like bloating, wind or gas. Choose a high quality, clinically-trialled probiotic that is suitable for daily use (unless you are trying to treat a specific condition, like eczema, IBS or vaginal thrush). Some probiotics even have a dual-action formula containing probiotic strains and prebiotics.
It’s also a good idea to assess your diet and fuel your body with probiotic sources too, like yoghurt, kimchi, kefir, miso and sauerkraut, as well as prebiotic foods including onions, leeks and garlic.
Aside from probiotics, there are also a variety of lifestyle factors that contribute to the health of your gut. Take note of these tips to help keep the balance in check:
- stay hydrated – with at least eight cups of water per day
- exercise – just 30 minutes daily is all you need; a simply brisk walk can do the trick
- include fibre-rich foods in your diet, ideally at every meal (vegetables like asparagus, leeks, onion as well as fruit are excellent choices)
- cut back on inflammatory foods and stimulants including processed foods, refined sugar, alcohol and caffeine
- ensure a minimum of seven hours’ sleep each night.
While supplements may be of assistance if dietary intake is inadequate, they can still interact negatively, or reduce the efficacy of some medications. You should always seek the advice of a qualified health professional before taking any supplements.
How do you manage your gut bacteria?