I purposely did not entitle this piece “Gut Health” because literally every nutrition article I see on social media surrounds this topic at the moment and shows you where to buy probiotics + overpriced kimchi. Cool. Okay. What is this gut health thing? Sounds popular and on trend in the health world. And it sounds better than ‘bowel health’ that is for sure.
There 101 reasons why you might struggle with bloating, gas, sore stomach, heartburn, IBS type symptoms, constipation, diarrhoea and other glamourous GIT (gastrointestinal tract)-related issues. It could be stress, too much-processed food, high fat/protein diets, intolerances, full-blown allergies, excessive or restricted eating, coffee, alcohol, the list goes on!
We are going to focus on just one wonderful factor that may be the answer to many of your life problems… Well, the gut related ones. That is not enough roughage or dietary fibre. We have all heard that fibre helps us ‘frequent the bathroom facilities’, but oh it does so much more than that- what exactly IS fibre? Well firstly, fibre is ONLY found in plants, not animal products. So that means vegetables, grains, fruits, seeds, nuts, sea plants, legumes, pulses etc. And there are two types of fibre that are pretty simple to remember: Soluble Fibre: this acts like a sponge + absorbs fluids making ‘excretal’ contents softer and therefore easier to move. Insoluble Fibre: this one acts like a ‘filler or bulking agent’ which also helps in keeping us regular.
Easy? Well, another word to bring to the party is Prebiotic. You have heard of probiotics, right? (If not – these introduce good bacteria to your gut). Well, prebiotics promote the growth of BENEFICIAL intestinal microorganisms that the probiotics introduced. Fibre is PREBIOTIC, acting like a fertiliser for good bacteria that already exists. Keep that in mind if you don’t remember anything else from this! We (male + female adults) need between 28-35g per day. Many clients that I see are barely reaching 18g per day. They are wondering why they are struggling with gut related bloating, pain, ‘IBS’ symptoms. I believe some of the answers lie right here.
We do not ONLY need fibre so that we have happy regular toilet visits. I mean, sure, this is tremendously important + relieving. BUT going a little deeper into the wonderful world of your microbiota (all those communities of little organisms that are sharing your personal space very closely – inside you) is much more beneficial long term for your internal health.
A study done last year by the American Journal of Physiology found that a diet missing or severely lacking soluble fibre promotes inflammation in the intestines + poor gut health, with leads to weight gain. There is also speculation that inflammation caused by altered gut microbiome (from low fibre intake) may be linked to obesity-related diseases + diabetes. Another study has found that bad bacterial changes to a person’s gut microbiome are linked to IBS, gastrointestinal disease + metabolic disease (not mention all those symptoms I mentioned at the beginning). The intestines of dietary fibre-deficient guts are found to be thinner and in some cases, over stretch due to hard waste just not moving through. Ouch.
Please don’t be too alarmed – the GREAT thing is that introducing more soluble fibre to a lacking diet CAN restore gut health. Feed the good guys battling for you! Prebiotics + a great balance of the right bacteria benefits not only your guts + the glamour of bowel regularity, but also the positive health impact on other physiological functions could be huge. We have already mentioned lower incidences of diabetes, obesity related illness and gastrointestinal diseases (such as diverticular disease or haemorrhoids) with high prebiotic diets. We also find better control of blood glucose levels, strong immune systems, increase calcium + magnesium absorption and lower blood cholesterol levels. Even mental health! We see fewer issues of anxiety, depression + stress in individuals who consume high fibre daily + have a strong, healthy gut microbiota. In saliva testing in such individuals shows lower levels of cortisol. For those who don’t know: high levels of this hormone contribute to many stress + anxiety related health issues.
What am I saying here? Fibre might not cure all your ailments, I certainly see lots of true allergies + issues that aren’t magically going to disappear by eating some extra prunes, HOWEVER, a high fibre diet MAY truly have an amazing impact on the vitality, energy + chronic health of many people who currently struggle with any gut problems.
Feed on these Fabulous + Fibrous Foods:
– Soluble: oats, legumes (lentils, beans, etc), vegetables such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, carrots, potato, kumara + fruits such as apples, pears, citrus, stone fruits + berries.
– Insoluble: the most unprocessed + whole grain bread you can get, brown rice, wild rice, grains, corn, polenta. Most fruit + vegetables have insoluble fibre too.
– Water! It’s not fibre of course, but essentially for fibrous foods transportation + in helping to get rid of waste from your body.
If you currently have a very low fibre diet, I encourage you to slowly introduce fibrous foods to the diet, your body might take a little while to figure it out. There is so much to learn + so many interesting studies being done on this big topic of gut health. It’s worth getting right and it feels so much better too.
*Please note – I would love to talk to you further about fibre and your diet so please feel free to email me to find out more. Or you can find more information here, here + here.
For more info on pro-biotic foods have a read of this great article from our friends at Health Ambition… click here to read!