Gut health is just not one of those things you think about regularly. We’re too consumed with eating right, like downing turmeric lattes in NZ, doing our skiing exercises at home to stay fit, and taking care of our skin to remember how important our insides are as well. What ends up often happening is something goes terribly wrong with our gut health – think food poisoning or the stomach flu. Then, we suddenly realise how important it is, and how much effort it can take to take care of our gut health.
We’re going to take a look at a few things that really do work to improve your gut health, some alternative ways that may or may not help, and then finally, what can completely destroy your gut.
What actually improves gut health
Your diet: As expected, one of the best ways to fix up your gut is to fix up your diet. Focus on a diet of veggies and plenty of fibre, but also try and reduce junk food and dairy products. Dairy products can actually change your gut microbes, when eaten in large amounts. This means that you can permanently alter how your gut responds to food, and make it more sensitive.
Prebiotics and probiotics are another way to help your gut health, and can be found naturally in plenty of food or by taking probiotic supplements.
Cutting down alcohol: Yes, we know this isn’t everyone’s favourite topic, but it’s important to think about when talking about our guts. Most alcohol, when drunk in excess, can decrease the good bacteria in your gut and can even lead to dysbiosis. Red wine, on the other hand, can potentially increase the good bacteria when drunk in moderation. So, choose your drinks wisely!
Chinese medicine: Traditional Chinese medicine has been around for thousands of years, so whether you swear by it or not, it’s remained popular and has integrated into many western practices as well. Using Chinese medicine with your gut health will include plenty of Chinese herbs
The biggest takeaway here is to make sure you work with your doctor to provide them a full list of what you’re taking and what the ingredients are, so there’s no risk of interference with other medicines.
Probiotic supplements have been a little bit up in the air lately with how effective they actually are. Some studies have shown that they don’t do much, but others show there can be some helpful effects. The bottom line is that most studies show if you already have a healthy gut system, probiotics probably won’t do much, but they also won’t hurt.
Probiotics can potentially do some good when it comes to other situations, however. For example, if you’ve recently been struggling with irritable bowel syndrome, or recent food poisoning, probiotics can help get you back on track. There’s also been studies around taking probiotics while on antibiotics, and that they may help keep some of the gut flora that antibiotics destroy.
What we think does, but really doesn’t
Fresh plants and flowers: Come on guys, some fresh flowers aren’t going to fix your stomach bacteria. But believe it or not, many plants can possibly have a positive effect on our lives, and even help us feel better. Certain smelling plants, like lavender, can help us sleep better at night. Just the addition of a few power plants in your house will help clean the air. Unfortunately, however, plants at this stage have not been proven to help with a healthy gut.
Dairy: Many people think eating yogurt and milk have lots of good bacteria that can help with gut health. While this can be helpful for those with no dairy allergies or intolerances, dairy can often aggravate gut health in times of stress or stomach trauma. Use dairy products with caution, but don’t rely on them only for restoring good bacteria to your gut.
What actually really ruins your gut
Whether it be the stomach flu or food poisoning, some serious stomach trauma can do some serious damage to your gut flora. A particularly bad bout can lead to long term irritable bowel syndrome, or just an incredibly uncomfortable few weeks.
From antibiotics to overuse of medications, certain pills can really destroy your gut flora. Taking excessive acid blockers, for example, or well above the recommended level of anti-inflammatory medications can cause damage to your liver and an irritable bowel. As always, make sure you speak with your doctor before taking excessive medications, or before starting a round of antibiotics.
Sometimes we don’t even know we might be allergic to something. Perhaps after a long holiday without eating dairy or gluten will be what triggers a reaction when you come back to it. Other times you may just notice a lethargy or stomach pain after eating certain types of food. Soy, gluten and dairy are typically gut inflammatory foods, can be an allergen for some people, especially when you’re out to dinner or at a wedding venue and can’t be picky with your food. If you think you are one of these, speak with a dietician to potentially try an elimination diet. This can help you pinpoint where exactly your gut is failing you, and help restore some good bacteria.
Finally, living a stress free and healthy diet is your best bet to a healthy gut. The world of gut flora is a complicated one, and one that is unique to each and every one of us. Speaking with your doctor and potentially a dietician can help get your gut onto the healthy path. As always, get enough sleep, try and relax and reduce your stress levels, and eat well whenever possible.