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Sometimes referred to as the second brain, our gut is crucial in most aspects our overall health: from our immune system and skin to mental health and moods. Home to billions of different bacteria, the gut microbiome is the collection of the micro-organisms living inside our intestines. Having a wide variety of “good” gut bacteria (and less “bad” bacteria) is beneficial in many ways.
Modern life and its stressors can take a toll on our gut. Insufficient sleep, high stress, overconsumption of high-sugar and processed foods can damage our gut microbiome and affect our skin, our weight, our hormone levels, and our immune system.
Read on for some easy swaps you can implement to achieve optimal gut health.
Less processed food, more whole foods
Most processed foods are packed with added sugars, which feed the bad bacteria and can cause gas, bloating, and chronic inflammation.
Sufficient fibre is crucial – the good bacteria can only thrive when they are provided with enough of this nutrient. And yet, most of the population in the UK is not ingesting sufficient fibre (the recommended amount is 38g per day for men and 25g per day for women).
Try to add more plant foods to your diet, focusing on high-fibre prebiotic foods such as artichokes, hearts of palm and raspberries, all of which contribute to healthy gut microbiome, and which ensure that, in turn, probiotics can thrive. Probiotics have been shown to balance the gut’s good bacteria and help the immune system function – add them to your daily routine as a supplement or via fermented foods such as kimchi, yogurt, or kefir.
Smoke less, sweat more
As if its wide array of deadly side effects wasn’t enough, smoking affects gut health negatively by altering the intestinal flora. Cut the cigarettes and use the newfound free-time and energy to exercise more regularly. Studies suggest that regular exercise contributes to a wider variety of gut flora. Short on time? Try the 7 minute workout, proven to provide many of the fitness benefits of prolonged endurance training in a fraction of the time. Treat yourself to a post-workout magnesium oil rub and be sure to fuel up with a recovery shake.
Stress less, sleep more
This may be easier said than done, but chill out. Stress, whether psychological or environmental, can negatively affect the gut. Try meditation, an essential oil bath, or unplugging to de-stress.
Prioritise sleep: most sleep experts encourage seven to nine hours per night to maintain optimum health and performance. Establishing a night and morning routines can help improve sleep hygiene, as can shutting off electronics an hour before bedtime