5 easy ways to boost your gut health

The gut is a powerhouse of the human body – so a healthy gut can improve your overall health.

The gut is a powerhouse of the human body.

Stretching for about 7.5 metres, it is made up of the small intestine and the large intestine and home to around 100 trillion bacteria.

So keeping a balance of good gut bacteria versus bad bacteria is important for all-over health.

“Once you’ve swallowed food through your oesophagus, it travels to the stomach, which is like a sack of muscle,” explains Dr Katie Ellard, a Sydney-based gastroenterologist.

“Food is broken down, mixed with acids that are secreted in the stomach and this then goes to the small bowel. That’s where nutrients are absorbed – fats, proteins, sugars and vitamins. Every day about 1.5 litres of liquid waste go into the colon, which is like a waste disposal unit.”

Our gut helps us manage our weight, strengthen our immune system and how well we fight infections and disease, and helps our brain, too.

Scientists are also discovering links between the gut and healthy blood pressure – which means less risk of heart disease.

An unhealthy gut can also lead to bowel or colon cancer, with around one in 13 Australians developing bowel cancer.

Signs that your gut isn’t as healthy as it could be are indigestion, diarrhoea, heartburn, constipation, abdominal pain, belching, black or bloody stools, nausea and flatulence.

How to boost your gut health

  • Eat at least five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit.
  • Eat fibre-rich foods – we need 25g to 30g of fibre each day. Have at least four serves of wholegrain or wholemeal foods and swap white pasta for wholegrain pasta and white bread for wholegrain bread. Choose foods with at least 4g fibre per serve.
  • Eat 5 to three serves of lean protein, such as lean red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds. But adults should eat no more than 500g of red meat each week.
  • Boost good gut bacteria growth with yoghurts, fruits, vegetables, legumes and fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut.
  • Minimise treats and highly processed foods – too much sugar helps bad gut bacteria to grow.

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