4 of the most common gut health mistakes we’re all making, according to Ayurveda

No one likes feeling bloated, sluggish or lethargic. Not to mention the other side effects of poor gut health, such as mood swings, poor concentration, and weight gain. Anjum Anand explains the common gut health mistakes you could be making.

Considering every year at least 50 percent of Australian adults experience gut health issues, this is something that affects a lot of us. There are many diets, supplements, foods and natural remedies shared online claiming to cure gut issues, and this can be remedied by taking probiotics and eating certain foods but in focusing only on this, we overlook something equally important; our digestive system.

“Gut health” is the presence of a large variety of ‘good’ bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract which is thought to be responsible for many aspects of our health and is being researched more and more. Good digestion has been considered the root of good health for millenia.

According to Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of how to be well, digestion is one of the most important factors in good health. If you don’t digest your food, the meal will sit and ferment in your gut which produces toxins. A build-up of these toxins over time is considered one of the main reasons we end up getting chronic illness and disease (other than viral illnesses of course).

Some of us are blessed with strong digestion and metabolism while others of us have more sluggish systems, this is mostly determined by our body types but after that, how we live will either keep it in strength or dampen it. Generally speaking, we all benefit from eating meals which are lightly cooked, freshly prepared and vary in ingredients from day-to-day. Here are a few examples of things I find people commonly get wrong about gut health.

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Common gut health myths

#1 Fermented foods such as Kombucha and Sauerkraut will fix your gut

This is not entirely true. Fermented foods are great as they naturally contain probiotics, but some people’s digestive systems cannot digest fermented foods effectively, and therefore their gut issues will get worse. Generally, speaking, you should be able to tell if a food doesn’t suit you as you will feel the effects.

#2 Changing everything overnight is best

As much as we love to overhaul our lives in a day when dealing with the gut, especially sensitive guts, it is important to make steady changes instead of changing everything overnight. This will also help you monitor the positive effects of the changes better, and you will be able to get more in tune with what works for your body.

#3 It’s all about the foods you eat, not about how you eat them

This is a common misconception about diet, and the belief that if you eat ‘clean’ you will see and feel results. However, it is just as important to be mindful of how you eat as well.

#4 Taking supplements is all you have to do

While there are some great supplements on the market, it would be remiss to think your gut health relies on a single pill. You cannot fill your body with foods that aren’t right for your body and hope that a probiotic and/or prebiotic will erase the damage being done to your gut.

The advice for maintaining good “bacterial” gut health isn’t so different. Vary the ingredients in your meals, eat freshly cooked meals, sleep well, eat slowly, chewing well, lower your levels of stress, eat a diet high in vegetables and fibre are all attributed to help improve your gut health.

I feel that whether you look at old science or new science, both believe that good health stems from good eating habits and a life low in stress. Both hand us responsibility for our own health. If that isn’t empowering, I don’t know what is!

Some other Ayurvedic tips to improve your digestive system

  • Eat when seated, calm and ideally, not distracted.
  • Anger and stress will also stress your digestive system.
  • Do not drink cold water or even too much water when eating as this is akin to stamping out your digestive fire. Sipping hot or warm water aids digestion.
  • Eating small meals and at regular times is good for your digestion. Overeating or eating erratic meals will compromise your digestive system.
  • Eating too many different types of food in one meal will also challenge your digestion. Give those buffets a wide berth, eating simple food is better.
  • Meals that are lightly cooked and freshly made are the best way to eat.
  • When it comes to the actual foods you are eating, small portions of cooked foods are generally best. Raw foods are hard to digest so they are best eaten at lunch as this is when your digestion is strongest and ideally in the hotter months.
  • Fruit is best eaten away from other foods and often first thing in the morning.
  • Foods that are too heavy are bad for digestion.
  • Foods that are cold or frozen are bad for digestion as well.
  • Add a few spices such as black pepper, cumin, carom seeds, fennel seeds and chillies, all in moderation, to heavier meals or ingredients that are harder to digest like meat or beans.

Anjum Anand is a UK-based food writer, TV chef, am award-winning brand owner, entrepreneur and mother of two young children. Anjum inherited a love of food from her Punjabi-immigrant parents, along with a keen business sense.