I’ve always had a sensitive gut. Growing up, I had to drink a different milk to my siblings and in my late teens, I remember being so bloated that I had to change out of my jeans and into a flowy dress on regular occasions.
When I was 20, like many Aussies, I travelled to Bali and got the dreaded ‘Bali Belly’. I was sick for weeks afterwards and had what seems like every test under the sun and was finally left with a diagnosis of IBS or a hypersensitive gut.
Doctors told me that as healthy as I looked on the outside, I needed to replicate that on the inside too.
Part of my interest in gut health came from my own struggles, but also from the clients that I spent years working with. Gut health issues can be so debilitating, but what we know from the research is that there are many things we can do to optimise our gut health.
Being healthy isn’t just about looking good on the outside (wish my 20-year-old self knew this!). Being healthy is about how we feel and, more importantly, how our body functions.
So, what constitutes a healthy gut?
There is no medical terminology for a healthy gut but experts believe that someone with a healthy gut would be largely symptom free and should not require a consultation with a doctor or another clinical practitioner. A person with a healthy gut would also have effective digestion and absorption of nutrients. This encompasses things like normal vitamin and mineral status, regular bowel movements, normal transit time, absence of abdominal pain, normal stool consistency and minimal to no symptoms of things like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, bloating or constipation.
When it comes to gut health, there are approximately 100 trillion micro-organisms that exist in the human gastrointestinal tract. Each species plays a different role in your health and requires different nutrients for growth. So, it would make sense that a diverse microbiota in your gut is considered to be a healthy one. This is because the more species of bacteria you have in your gut, the greater number of health benefits they may be able to contribute to you.
Below are some of the things I do on a regular basis, and advise my clients to do, to ensure we are optimising our gut health which in turn is going to optimise our immunity and mental health too.
Tip 1: Diversity With Your Diet
Put simply, this means not eating the same thing every day or for every meal. I know you love your peanut butter and banana porridge for breakfast each day and your tuna salad for lunch. Although these are technically healthy from a nutrient perspective, by eating the same thing every day for every meal, we are, in the long-term, starving our gut bugs of the diversity they need to thrive. The more diverse your gut microbiota, the better your gut health will be.
So, how do we increase the diversity of our gut? It’s as simple as eating more vegetables and salads, fruits, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and wholegrains. Basically, all our great, high-fibre, nutrient dense wholefoods are what we need to focus on. You could say that good gut health is simply eating well for your health and you would be correct. Good gut health and good health are one in the same.
When it comes to optimising our gut health, we want to aim for 30+ plants a week. Plants don’t just mean vegetables, they also include wholegrains, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruits and salads. So instead of eating the same apple for a snack every afternoon, try a different piece of fruit instead. Instead of always adding peanut butter to your breaky, try all the other nut butter varieties too. 30 different plants a week has been shown in the research to be the most effective way of optimising your gut health and, if you’re aiming for diversity with all your meals, you will hit this number easily each week.
Tip 2: Limit Stress
Most people think that optimising their gut health means just what they put in their mouth, but the latest research in the gut health space shows us that stress plays a huge part in gut health symptoms and also digestion. In our body, we have what’s called a ‘gut-brain axis’ which makes our gut sensitive to our emotions.
Feelings such as stress, anxiety, anger and sadness can directly affect our gut health. The gut sends messages up to the brain and the brain sends messages back down to the gut. The two are interconnected.
How you feel influences your gut health and, if you’re stressed regularly, this will negatively affect your gut health. If you are a stressed or anxious person, try regularly meditating, doing yoga or journaling or go and speak with a professional such as a psychologist.
Tip 3: Fibre, Fibre, Fibre!
I’m sure you’ve all heard about eating more fibre for constipation, but fibre has so many more health benefits. Not only does fibre assist our gut health, it also helps to keep us fuller for longer, assists with our cholesterol and blood sugar levels and can also be helpful in reducing the risk of diseases. Healthy men should be aiming for 30g of fibre a day and healthy women should be aiming for 25g fibre a day. There are 3 main types of fibre and all are needed for a healthy gut.
Tip 4: Prebiotics
Not to be confused with probiotics, prebiotics are certain types of fibres that induce the growth or activity of beneficial microorganisms in our gastrointestinal tract. Essentially prebiotics feed the good bacteria in our gut. For people who struggle with IBS, they may be sensitive to certain prebiotics (as most are FODMAPs) but should continue to include them in small amounts for gut benefits. Natural prebiotics are found in foods such as chicory root, onion, garlic, cabbage, chickpeas, lentils, beans, dates, figs, white peaches, cashews, pistachio nuts, barley, rye bread/crackers, couscous and oats. Human breast milk also contains natural prebiotics so is the best source of nutrition for babies.
Tip 5: Probiotics
Probiotics are live microorganisms (bacteria) found in certain foods, which when consumed in adequate amounts are beneficial to our bodies. Natural food sources of probiotics include fermented milk and yoghurts, tempeh, miso and fermented vegetables such as kimchi, sauerkraut and pickles. Probiotics can also be found in powders and capsules too. A lot of my readers (like myself), prefer the food first approach so probiotics can be beneficial when they are found in functional foods such as drinks, breakfast cereals or snack bars. A lot of people struggle to remember to take their probiotic regularly and, for the full health benefits, most strains need to be taken for several weeks consistently.
Including probiotics in foods (making them functional foods), is something BC30™ does really well and can help us add health benefits, such as promoting digestive health, into our daily routine in a convenient and easy way.
BC30 (Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086) is a highly efficacious and safe spore-forming probiotic with research-backed health benefits. Over 25 published, clinical, pre-clinical and biomarker research papers include a wide range of people such as athletes, families, children, older adults and health-conscious consumers. BC30 has been shown to be effective for restoring and helping digestive health.
BC30 has a natural protective shell so that, unlike some other probiotics, BC30 arrives alive in your gut. BC30 is also more resilient than traditional probiotics and, due to this, it is available in hundreds of functional foods and beverages around the world. BC30 does not require refrigeration when used in dry goods so it can be found in teas, bars, snacks, oats, breakfast products, refrigerated juices, kombucha and more.
BC30 (formerly known as GanedenBC30) is available in a number of food and beverage products across Australia today. Look for the BC30™ logo and brand name on-pack, or scan the ingredient listing for the unique strain name: Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086.
I love using pro-biotic muesli, rolled oats with probiotics, probiotic oat bars and probiotic tea – all products you can find with BC30.
BC30 is considered a safe probiotic for many, but if you have a medical condition, or are pregnant, please discuss using BC30 with your doctor or health professional.