Dietitian Chloe McLeod shares her one-week plan to promote better gut health, and reset after the silly season.
Are you experiencing unwanted gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, pain or constipation? This might be a sign that your gut health is suffering!
It’s not uncommon to get to the end or beginning of the year and feel like you need a gut health reset. The good news is, it’s easier than you may think to improve your gut health! Today we give you seven things to do over the next seven days for a healthy gut.
Day 1: cut back processed, fatty foods and alcohol
Not only are processed, fatty foods and alcohol bad for our overall health, they aren’t great for our gut health either. This doesn’t mean you need to exclude them altogether, but just be conscious of how often you are having them.
When it comes to minimising our intake of processed, fatty foods and alcohol it’s about minimising the days per week we are having them, but also reducing the amount that we are having. For example, instead of eating half a takeaway pizza in one sitting, try having one or two slices with a side salad instead. Not only will this reduce your intake of processed foods, but it also increases the number of plants you’re getting in. That’s a win-win for us and your gut!
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Day 2: drink plenty of water
It may sound simple, but water is a key player in our gut health! We should all be aiming for around two litres of water per day. However, coming into the warmer months you may need to drink a little bit more.
If you’re struggling to get enough water in, try buying yourself a new drink bottle and keeping it on your desk throughout the day. Having a bottle on your desk can act as a reminder to drink more water. Alternatively, you can try setting a timer and some goals to drink a whole bottle but certain times of the day. You could aim to drink one by lunch time, another by dinner, and another before bed.
Day 3: focus on fibre
The next step in getting your gut health back on track is making sure you’re getting adequate fibre in your diet. Fibre is essential for keeping things moving through our digestive tract, but it also helps to keep our gut microbiome happy.
Fibre can be found in fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds. Try to include plenty of these in your diet, whether that’s snacking on a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts, swapping your white bread for whole grain bread or adding some extra baked vegetables on the side of your meals. However, it’s also important to increase your fibre slowly over a few weeks and drink plenty of water to avoid any unpleasant symptoms (such as gas and bloating).
Day 4: prioritise prebiotics
Not only do we want to be getting enough fibre in our diet, we also want to be getting the right kind of fibre! Prebiotic fibre feeds the good bacteria in our gut. Therefore, we want to make sure we’re getting enough to keep our gut functioning at its best.
Some foods that are high in prebiotic fibre include bananas, onions, garlic, many types of vegetables, and whole grains such as oats. Adding these foods into your diet is a lot easier than you may think. We love including onion and garlic in our meals for extra flavour, having overnight oats for breakfast, and snacking on a banana throughout the day.
Day 5: up your plant intake
When it comes to our gut health, we want to be including a variety of different plants in our diet. Eating a greater variety of plants increases the diversity of our gut microbiome. This is beneficial for our gut health (and overall health), since each of the different microbes living in our gut play different roles in our health. Therefore, the greater the variety, the better!
Now plants aren’t just fruit and vegetables, it also includes nuts, seeds and whole grains, essentially anything that comes from a plant! We challenge you to see how many different plants you can include on your plate over the next week.
Day 6: include regular exercise
Daily exercise is not only great for our physical and mental health, but it’s also great for our gut health! In fact, exercise can increase the number of good bacteria in our gut microbiome. We should all be aiming for around 30 minutes of exercise every day. But, before you roll your eyes thinking “I don’t have time for that”, keep in mind this doesn’t have to be all in one go.
You can start by parking the car 10 minutes away from work and adding in a 10-minute walk on your lunch break. It’s as simple as three short, 10 minute-blocks, and you’ve met your goal of 30 minutes for the day! Yoga is also good for gut health, with poses and stretches to physically improve digestion and mindfulness to help with stress management, which can have a major impact on gut symptoms…
Day 7: manage your stress
The final factor to consider when getting your gut health back on track are your stress levels. Believe it or not, our gut health affects our mental health and vice versa. Therefore, keeping on top of your stress levels is a great way to look after your gut. Managing stress levels is different for all of us, so it’s a matter of taking some time to find the strategies that work best for you. You may find doing some exercise, meditation, or catching up with family and friends helps you!
Chloe McLeod is an online dietitian based in Sydney who specialises as a sports dietitian, fodmap dietitian and food intolerance dietitian.