Hippocrates, the Greek father of medicine, is apparently quoted as saying “all diseases begin in the gut”, and in a lot of ways he was on to something. In recent years there has been a rise in the number of people who suffer digestive disorders. Crohn’s disease, coeliac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhoea, candida, food allergies and diverticulitis are all examples. Even if you aren’t one of those who do suffer, there’s a good chance your digestion health isn’t up to scratch.
How you can know
Well, your gut — also known as your intestinal tract — can have a huge impact on your health and wellbeing. In fact, it has even been said that what goes on in your gut can affect you mood and if you have trouble with your digestion you could experience psychological and neurological disorders.
There are some important indicators you should take note of if you think your gut could be in less than great shape. For starters, you might have noticed some abdominal bloating, increased wind, pain, diarrhoea and a general feeling of being unwell.
Maintaining a healthy gut is important to helping reduce your risk of a range of conditions.
In addition to being an important part of your mental and emotional health, your digestion can also play a starring role in the way you fight off disease. If you have been getting more than the seasonal cold and flu, or you have had a change in appetite, or you have become sensitive to some foods (even to the point of having an allergy) then something might be amiss in your gut.
When the micro-organisms in your gut are out of whack and the ‘bad bacteria’ gets a chance to breed they can produce toxins that can weaken your immunity. The bad bacteria can also reduce your ability to effectively absorb nutrients into your blood stream.
Read more: The gut-brain-health connection
What you can do
Many dietitians will say your diet has a lot to do with the unsavoury condition of your gut. If you eat a lot of processed food and can’t recall the last time you ate a piece of fresh fruit of vegetables, then you definitely fall into the poor diet category. However, if you have a sedentary lifestyle or a stressed out this will also lead to an unhappy intestinal tract.
If your gut isn’t performing in the way that it should you might want to consider the following:
- Avoiding sugar and starches, as bad bacteria thrives on sugar. Avoid eating refined sugars such as table sugar or high fructose corn syrup, and reduce your intake of corn, potatoes and legumes.
- Eating the right balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. If you have too many omega-6 fats it can exacerbate the digestive problems you are experiencing. Dietitians recommend you limit the amount of seed-based cooking oils such as corn oil, soybean oil, vegetable oil and canola oil from your diet and instead look to incorporate more traditional fats. You also want to include foods that are naturally rich in omega-3 fats, such as salmon.
- Avoiding trans fats, which are basically any foods that contain partially-hydrogenated oils such as fried foods, takeaways etc.
- Eating more fermented foods such as sauerkraut, chutneys, and dairy products like buttermilk, sour cream and yoghurt.
- Eating more wholegrans and a variety of fruits and vegetables, including foods rich in soluble fibre like sweet potato, raw onions, garlic, asparagus, Brussels sprouts and avocado.
If stress is a factor, you want to look at engaging in activities such as walking, meditation and outdoor activities, while plenty of good quality sleep can be beneficial.
Healing your gut allows your body to build a stronger immune system and produce the right kind of bacteria that tells your brain feeling good is a-okay.