How to heal your gut naturally
Want to know how to heal your gut naturally using food rather than medicine along? Then take a read as I am going to share my top tips as a gut health dietitian.
Gut health is such a large area, maybe you are struggling with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bloating, constipation or diarrhoea. Take a read for my top tips:
Can you heal your gut naturally?
As a gut health dietitian I work via the evidence base. So what does the scientific research tell us about how to heal your gut health naturally? This is an evolving area which is why it is so exciting to work in this field. Whilst I am a huge fan of nutrition I also know that it is only one part of gut heath. Overall lifestyle and medications also play an important role. Let’s take a deeper dive:
Nutrition for gut health:
- Eating 30 plant foods a week. Research from the American Gut Project that showed eating 30 plant foods in a week had a more diverse microbiome. This was compared to those who only ate 10 plant foods a week. Now a plant food can be: fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices. Which is a huge range! However each foods only counts once a week. So if like me, you have a banana each day that doesn’t count 7 times in your week but only once.
- Eat 30g of fibre a day. Most of the UK population have been shown to eat around 18g fibre a day. Which is an increase from the 12g a day we were eating, but we have a way to go. Fibre is found in fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains. Sounds familiar? It’s those plant foods again!
- Include fermented foods and probiotic foods in your diet too. Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria also known as the “good” bacteria. These are the ones that we want in our gut as they benefit our health. They feed off the food that passes into our colon and ferment it. These bacteria need topping up regularly as well as feeding do they thrive. Probiotic rich foods include live yoghurt and also fermented foods. Fermented foods include kimchi, sourdough bread, sauerkraut, miso, kefir and kombucha.
- Eat regular meals and chew well. Whilst these sound like basic things to be told, they really make a difference. Have a think about how often you skip meals. Eating smaller amounts more regularly really can help your digestive health. Chewing each mouthful thoroughly helps with digestion and also helps you to slow down, taking more time over your eating.
Lifestyle for how to heal your gut health naturally:
- Focusing on how you manage your stress can play a key role when you are trying to heal your gut health naturally. This is due to the gut-brain connection. When the head is stressed the levels of cortisol affect the gut too. Now we can’t live a life free of stress but we can work on how we manage that stress. Mindfulness, meditation, journalling, crafting, deep breathing, yoga, pilates, walks in nature. Find a way that works for you.
- Movement for gut health. Lower intensity exercise can be a good place to start. There is evidence showing the benefits of yoga for IBS and digestive conditions. Personally I teach Pilates and find that to be very helpful. Whether it is walking or resistance training, the key is to move and allow your body to stretch, bend and rotate. This can help release gas, reduce bloating and improve your mental health too.
- Sleep is also key. Focus on making sure you wind down before bed to enable you to get good quality sleep and enough of it. Try switching off your screens an hour before bed, doing some stretches and having a herbal tea before bed. Using items such as an eye mask and ear plugs can help too. Why not use a meditation as you lie in bed or some calming music to help you drift off. I like to listen to sounds of the ocean.
Should I follow a gut health diet or cleanse?
There are so many diets, gut cleanses, pills and potions that will come up if you have a google. However many of these are not based on any sound evidence and so they can lead to your wasting your cash.
The low FODMAP diet plan is an evidenced based approach for IBS. It can be effective in up to 75% of those suffering from IBS but this does tend to be IBS with diarrhoea. As a dietitian who helps people through this diet I do need to highlight that this is no quick fix.
There is an elimination phase of the diet which takes 2-6 weeks. For many this helps reduce symptoms but it is pretty restrictive. Then you need to reintroduce each of the foods eliminated one at a time, whilst remaining on the low FODMAP plan. It is really important to reintroduce all foods and test them as being on the elimination phase too long can affect your gut microbiome. Which is not helpful when you are trying to help your gut health!
If you want to try the low FODMAP diet then here are my tips:
- Plan and prepare ahead of time. Get to know what foods you CAN eat and build a meal plan around this. Look ahead in your diary for any social occasions and how to work around these.
- Work with a dietitian to make sure you will still meet your nutritional needs. You can look for one local to you or you can book with me here. I work online helping people with IBS and gut health.
- Take a look at my book for more tips and education to help you through the plan but this book is not meant to substitue the advice of a dietitian.
Gut Health Meal Plan:
We all differently from day to day, so this is just a snapshot of a working day for me. I was fortunate to be featured in the Guardian gut heath supplement talking about what I eat in a day for my gut health. Now I don’t usually like to share what I eat in a day, in fact I hate those posts on social media. However talking through why foods are good for your gut health is something I’m in favour of. Do remember this is a snapshot of how you can eat and there will always be days when things are different. For me that is usually the weekend.
- Aim for fruit and/or vegetables at every meal.
- Don’t be afraid to add in nuts and seeds to a meal or snack.
- Remember herbs and spices add flavour, nutrition and are good for your gut.
- Reduce caffeine, alcohol and soft drinks.
- Add beans and pulses to meals to help increase the plant content and fibre of your diet.
- Wholegrains are a good source of fibre. Work on a variety in your week: oats, rye, popcorn, quinoa, basmati or wholegrain rice, wholemeal pasta and bread, buckwheat, wholegrain breakfast cereals.
- Dark chocolate, tea, coffee, red wine all contain polyphenols!
- Still include a little of the foods you love!
Gut healthy snacks:
Snacks are always something I’m asked for so here are some of my top gut healthy snacks.
- Nuts and seeds mixed with some dried fruit
- Popcorn with cinnamon or spices
- Roasted chickpeas or edamame beans
- Apple with peanut butter
- Homademade flapjack. This is a winner of a recipe
- Carrots and pepper strips with hummus
- Wholemeal pitta bread with guacomole
- Dried wholegrain cereal
- Oatcakes with cheese
- Wholemeal wrap spread with cream cheese, rolled up and cut into slices
I hope that has given you some great ideas for your gut health. For more tips straight to your inbox each week you can sign up to my newsletter.