We caught up with Olympic team dietitian, Peta Carige to chat about how to improve your gut health
It has been stated multiple times that the gut is the body’s second brain because of how closely it is tied to the way the body functions. Even though the gastrointestinal tract is one of the most complex ecosystems, it is a crucial component to human health.
But what does ‘gut health’ actually mean? Your body contains trillions of traces of bacteria, fungi and other microbes. The term ‘gut health’ refers to the balance and function of this bacteria, which not only assists in digesting food and absorbing nutrients, but has also been proven to support your physical and mental health.
How can you improve your gut health?
Common signs of an unhealthy gut may include stomach discomfort, fatigue, food cravings, food intolerances, skin issues, autoimmune conditions, migraines and allergies. Research indicates that the more diversified the microbiome is, the lower your risk is in developing these symptoms and maintaining a healthier mind and body. There is solid evidence that also shows that a more diverse gut microbiome is linked to a healthy body weight. Establishing this diversity starts from birth and we even inherit or pass on our diversity from mother to child!
So now that you know how essential it is to promote a healthy gut microbiome, how do you do it? Although everyone’s microbiomes are unique, here are some steps everyone can take to improve their gut health and foster a healthier microbiome.
5 tips for better gut health
Increase your fiber intake by eating more seasonal fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are great contributors to a healthy microbiome due to their high amounts of fiber, they can also prevent the growth of some disease-causing bacteria. Leafy green vegetables offer our bodies with a remarkable amount of sulfoquinovose, which is a sugar molecule that is essential in providing your gut with good bacteria, it is also a great source of folate, fiber, vitamin C and vitamin K. Blueberries are a well-known probiotic and contain polyphenols which helps support a healthy digestion and bananas contain potassium, vitamin B6, and the type of fiber that good bacteria enjoy. So, swap your morning snack for a nutritious banana or a handful of blueberries and watch your gut thank you!
Consume probiotics and eat fermented foods
Eating foods rich in probiotics may also be your answer in fostering a healthier gut microbiome as they contain live bacteria, also known as “good bacteria”. Foods that contain probiotics include kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso and tempeh to name a few. You can also use a probiotic supplement to help increase the good bacteria in your gut, but always consult with a health professional or dietitian to find out what one will work best for you, so you don’t waste your money.
Managing stress is one of the most beneficial techniques for improving gut health. In fact, being mindful of your gut-brain axis is crucial as emotional stress can prompt an inflammatory gut response. This is because the gastrointestinal tract is reactive to emotion. So next time you feel overwhelming emotions coming on, instead of stressing try some self-care practices like yoga, meditation, breathing techniques and regular exercise.
“My personal favourite is roasting chickpeas with turmeric, paprika and salt as a snack on their own or to throw into my lunchtime salad”
Add Legumes and Lentils to your diet
In Australia we are notoriously poor at consuming legumes and lentils in our daily routines. Coming into winter it is a great time to try and add a can (rinsed) of legumes or lentils to all of your favourite winter warming dishes, or, my personal favourite is roasting chickpeas (rinsed) with some turmeric, paprika and salt and having them as a snack on their own or adding them to your lunch time salad
Get out in Nature
This works in two ways – there is evidence to say that being in nature reduces our stress levels and anxiety, but also being exposed to different environments and literally different dirts helps nurture diversity in our gut microbiota. They actually think that urbanization is largely responsible for the reduction in all of our microbiota so get out there and get your hands dirty!
Peta has worked across professional teams since 2005 with numerous elite teams and athletes, including Brisbane Broncos, Touch Football Australia, and Queensland Academy of Sports. She helps create confidence in athletes’ nutrition decisions to help them perform at their best and continue moving in the right direction. Peta thrives on empowering individuals to live confidently by improving their health through nutritional solutions for life.
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