Five simple steps to improve your gut health

With at least half of the Australian population complaining of some sort of digestive problem in any 12-month period, isn’t it time that we take a stand and give our gut health the attention it deserves?

Looking after the beneficial bacterial in your digestive system can improve your body’s vitamin and mineral absorbency, hormone regulation, digestion, immune response, ability to eliminate toxins and can also impact your overall mental health.

In a recent interview, Dr Rajaraman Eri from the University of Tasmania explained that “more and more people are beginning to realise that your gut is just as important- if not more so- than your brain”.

Eating the wrong foods, including saturated fats and sugars, and overusing some medications, such as antibiotics, can disturb the balance of bacteria in your stomach.

But rest assured! Following these five simple steps will have you well on your way to transforming your gut health and enjoying all the benefits that come with a happy tum.

Step 1: Get a handle on stress

When you are experiencing high levels of stress, your brain goes into ‘flight or fight’ mode and restricts blood flow to the gut. Stressful situations can also cause your brain to release a chemical known as cortisol, which has been found to attack the beneficial bacteria in your gut.

At LIV, we recommend taking a yoga class a few times a week, incorporating regular meditation into your day and making sure you sleep well to keep your stress levels down.

Step 2: Add some cardio

A study from the University of Illinois has found that people who engage in 30-60 minutes of cardio three time a week have higher levels of butyrate – a short-chain fatty acid that helps promote a healthy intestine, reduces inflammation and improves energy levels.

However, the study also showed that the people who returned to a more sedentary lifestyle lost their supply of butyrate, so be sure to keep up the regular exercise!

Step 3: Eat well

We all know that probiotics are good for gut health, but so are foods high in prebiotics. Prebiotics are a type of undigested fibre that passes through the body and promotes the growth and functioning of friendly gut bacteria. Foods high in prebiotics include – lentils, oats, bananas, asparagus, garlic, leeks, onions and nuts.

A healthy gut has a diverse community of microbes, each of which prefers different foods. As a result, it is important to have diet consisting of a wide variety of whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  A diet high in processed foods and added sugars may cause gut dysbiosis, an imbalance of gut microbes.

Step 4: Get enough sleep

Like sleep, it appears that our microbiome is regulated by circadian rhythms. When circadian rhythms are disrupted, the health and functioning of the microbiome can be suffer.

Tips for regulating your circadian rhythm:

  1. Turn off your TV and phone at least one hour before bed. The light from these screens is blue spectrum light, which tells the brain to stop producing melatonin (the hormone which regulates the sleep-wake cycle).
  2. Create a peaceful bedroom space where you can easily relax and unwind. It is best to leave all screens outside the room and sleep with light blinds so that the sun can naturally wake you up.

Not sleeping enough (less than seven hours each night) can have an almost immediate negative effect on our microbiome health. A recent Swedish study involving young, healthy weight adults revealed that as little as two consecutive nights of insufficient sleep resulted in harmful changes to the microbiome.

After two nights of just four and a half hours of sleep, the numbers of beneficial bacterial strains in subjects’ digestive tracts dropped by almost half. The study also showed that participants became less resistant to insulin, causing their microbiome to resemble that of an obese individual.

Step 5: Maintain your dental health

The mouth is known as ‘the gatekeeper to your gut’, so it’s no surprise that our oral and gut health are strongly linked. Multiple studies have found harmful forms of bacteria that grow in the mouth often make their way into the gut or even the blood stream.

Regularly brushing twice a day can help keep those potentially harmful microbes in check.

Always remember a healthy gut begins with what you put into it!

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