One of the most important lessons I learnt studying nutrition is that you’re not what you eat; you are, in fact, what you digest and absorb. Put simply, the gut is the body’s second brain. Your gut contains around 70 per cent of your immune system, so it’s no wonder that your gut health can impact your overall health and appearance.
If your digestion is compromised, you might experience symptoms such as poor digestion, constipation, fatigue, bloating, sluggish metabolism, hormonal imbalance and more. The good news is there are plenty of simple and effective ways to optimise your gut bacteria. Here, I’ve listed my top 10 tried-and-tested recommendations that can be incorporated into your everyday life.
My gut healing protocol:
- Eat wholefoods: I simply can’t emphasize this enough. Avoid processed foods and stick to lean, organic proteins; healthy fats, plenty of greens, nuts, seeds and pulses.
- Chew well: The first step in the digestion process is chewing our food properly. When we chew our food, our saliva coats the food and sends signals to the brain to prepare for the digestive process. Once the food enters the stomach, hydrochloric acid and enzymes work to break it down into small particles, which travel to the small intestine and allow the nutrients to be absorbed into your bloodstream.
- Trial a gluten-free diet: I encourage many of my clients to give up gluten for a trial period of two to four weeks. Try this and see how your body responds. In my experience, many people report feeling lighter without gluten; their gut functions better and their energy starts to increase. If you do decide to go gluten-free, I recommend avoiding processed foods and sticking to a wholefoods diet. I have plenty of gluten-free recipes here.
- Limit caffeine intake: Consuming too much caffeine can cause a spike in cortisol, so I recommend having one coffee a day, after breakfast and before 10am. Read more about my thoughts on coffee here.
- Avoid processed food: This includes refined sugar, pre-packaged foods, soda, chewing gum and artificial sweeteners.
- Enjoy probiotic-rich foods: Fermented foods, such as kombucha, sauerkraut and kefir, are great for the gut and reduce inflammation, support digestion and enhance metabolism.
- Optimise digestive enzymes: Having good amounts of hydrochloric acid in the stomach helps to break down food, thereby aiding digestion. I recommend sipping on two litres of water with a dash of apple cider vinegar throughout the day.
- Keep a 20-minute gap between eating and drinking: When you drink just before eating, it dilutes the gastric juices and inhibits proper absorption. I recommend having two glasses of water 20 minutes before each meal to keep you hydrated.
- Maintain a range of healthy bacteria: Your gut holds trillions of bacteria that help you to process your food, produce nutrients and fight disease. When your gut is populated with healthy flora, your wellbeing blooms effortlessly. To support your gut, I recommend taking a probiotic under the guidance of a medical practitioner.
- Eliminate stress: When released into the body in high amounts, the stress hormones – adrenalin and cortisol – cause the digestive system to shut down, thereby wreaking havoc on the body. I recommend taking at least 20 minutes each day to rest without distractions such as your phone or emails. Try restorative, calming practices such as getting to bed early, practising deep belly breathing and meditating. Most of all, be kind to yourself.
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