6 easy activities to support your gut health
Looking to support your gut health? It’s a wise move. Good gut health has the power to impact everything, from our mood and immunity to our weight. Incorporating simple gut-friendly activities into your routine will soon have a noticeable positive effect on your overall wellbeing. And it’s not just about what you eat.
“There’s a strong link between gut health and the immune system,” says Jo Travers, a dietitian for Love Your Gut. “The bacteria in our gut ‘teach’ our immune systems what is harmful and what isn’t. This helps make sure the immune system doesn’t overreact when exposed to antigens and keeps inflammation in check. “This important bacteria thrives when we eat plenty of plant fibre, get some exercise, sleep well and manage our stress.”
Here, Jo shares her simple advice for the easy activities you can do to support your gut health
Six easy activities to support your gut health
Whether you enjoy a home workout, or get outdoors once a day for a walk, jog or cycle, it is important to stay active. “Getting enough exercise can increase populations of some bacteria that can reduce inflammation,” says Jo. “It also aids peristalsis – the movement of food through the gut – and may help to improve symptoms of constipation.”
Get enough sleep
We all know that a good night’s sleep can make us feel better, but it has also been shown to have a direct effect on our microbiota. “Even two nights of disrupted sleep has been shown to disrupt the ratio of two strains of bacteria thought to be involved in obesity,” Jo explains. To help promote good quality sleep, stick to a regular bedtime and wakeup time. Also make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet. Wake-up hormones are stimulated by light and as the sun comes up earlier this can interrupt the end part of sleep. If you need to, invest in a sleep mask. Avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evenings also helps with a sound night’s sleep.
Manage your stress
We often lose our appetite during times of stress, and this is no accident. As Jo explains, long-term stress can have a hugely detrimental impact on our gut health. “Stress – physical or psychological – triggers a chain reaction in the body, including the production of the stress hormone cortisol,” she says. “This can cause impairment of the communication pathways between the gut and the brain, known as the gut-brain axis. “This can mean changes to blood flow and secretions in the gut, which can create better conditions for pathological bacteria and inhibit the growth of some helpful bacteria. It can also affect the movement of food through the gut and result in either constipation or diarrhoea. To help manage stress in these uncertain times you can try yoga, going for a walk, breathing exercises, or meditation. Try a few activities out to find one that works for you.
Get into nature
Getting into the great outdoors works wonders for our wellbeing. Along with calming the mind and soothing the soul, being in nature can have a positive effect for our gut health too. “Just coming into contact with the outdoors is enough to influence your gut bacteria,” says Jo. “Microscopic airborne particles are colonised by a variety of bacteria that make their way into us via the air we breathe.”
Eat more plant-based foods
A varied gut microbiota is associated with better health. To keep the bacteria thriving, enjoy a varied diet that includes plant-based foods. While fresh food is delicious and full of nutrients, it’s important to remember that all types of plant-based foods count. That includes dried, tinned, frozen fresh and whole grains. “A study found that people who eat 30 or more different plant foods each week are likely to have a much more varied gut microbiota than those who eat 10 or fewer,” says Jo. “Up your intake of plant-based foods by adding a selection to your weekly shop.”
Enjoy other foods good for gut health
Along with fruit and vegetables, there are many other elements of our diet that can support gut health. It’s important to enjoy a wide variety of foods to help support your wellbeing. “Beans, legumes and pulses are high in plant compounds called oligosaccharides, which feed the beneficial Bifidobacteria strains,” says Jo. “These bacteria have been associated with a healthy immune system and improvement in symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). “You can enjoy a mid-afternoon treat of dark chocolate too! Bacteria in our gut ferment the fibre and polyphenols in cocoa. This creates new compounds that research shows to be good for our heart as well as our gut and may even improve insulin sensitivity.” Liz recommends these dark chocolate treats!
Watch Liz make her own kefir
Fermented foods are full of beneficial good gut bugs and can help to support our wellbeing. Watch Liz make her own kefir at home in the video below.
Read more gut health articles
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- Fermented foods – discover the five Ks
- A flatter, happier tum
- Gut health – what you need to know
- Signed copy of The Good Gut Guide
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