Fast and easy ways to boost your gut health

Gut microbiome has a significant impact on our overall wellbeing, and the good news is, giving your gut health a makeover takes less time than you might think.

Gut health plays a vital role in everything from immunity and sleep to mood and weight loss.

Not only that, 1.5kg of bacteria that call your gut home are species that manufacture brain neurochemicals, and 95 per cent of the body’s supply of the mood-stabilising serotonin is actually produced in the gut.

With this in mind, it extremely important to maintain a healthy gut according to naturopath Jelena Savic.

“Our gut is involved in so many different functions and we require good gut health for both physical health as well as mental health,” Jelena told House of Wellness TV.

Factors that influence gut health

“Both diet and lifestyle are going to affect the function of your gut, but there are also many other factors that will affect it as well.

“Stress is a huge factor that really does affect your gut function.

“Medication use, things like antibiotic use, can cause a disarray within the good bacteria and bad bacteria balance in the gut.

“So we need to make sure we are bringing the gut back into balance.”

Doing that might take less time than you think, with research showing that we can change the composition of our gut bacteria within a matter of days.

Easy ways to improve your gut health

Eat a gut-friendly diet.

On its own, this can pay dividends in three or four days.

Research shows a diet that’s good for your gut is one that’s full of plant-based whole foods like fruit, vegetables, legumes, wholegrains and nuts and seeds.

Dietitian Milly Smith says a key reason is because plant foods often function as prebiotics, given many are rich in a particular type of dietary fibre that passes undigested into the large intestine, where they promote the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria.

“A really simple way to eat a gut-friendly diet is to eat a Mediterranean-style diet,” Milly says.

Research agrees, showing that following a Mediterranean diet not only increases the amount of total bacteria in the gut, it also supports the growth of beneficial varieties like lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.

Include a wide variety of plant foods.

So rather than rotating the same handful of vegies, strive for variety.

The exact number to aim for over a seven-day period?

Thirty, with a study finding that people who did that had much more diverse gut bacteria than those who consumed only 10 types of plant foods weekly.

“And biodiversity in our gut flora is a very good thing,” Milly says.

“It means there’s a really good balance of gut bacteria, which is what we’re aiming for.”

Add some fermented foods.

Whether it’s yoghurt, kimchi or sauerkraut, the results of a study published in 2021 show that fermented foods also increase the diversity of gut microbes.

One explanation is that they’re a source of probiotics, live bacteria that interact with the gut’s resident microbes to help maintain or improve the good bacteria that live there.

Get a good night’s sleep.

Missing out on the required amount of sleep for just a couple of days in a row can disrupt the ratio of healthy-to-unhealthy bacteria living in your gut, so don’t skimp on shut-eye.

With the standard advice being to aim for at least seven hours of sleep a night, the good news is that a 2020 study shows that the prebiotics those plant-based foods deliver work to improve sleep.

Enjoy some exercise.

By doing something physically active regularly, research shows the volume of healthy bacteria living in the gut increases, while levels of less-healthy varieties fall.

Guidelines recommend doing at least two-and-a-half hours of moderate-intensity activity each week.

How to maintain a healthy gut

While the health of your gut bacteria can improve significantly within a surprisingly short amount of time, research shows the opposite is also true.

“The thing to remember, is that it’s the things we do most of the time that have the biggest impact on gut health,” Milly says.

“So while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having the occasional takeaway meal or enjoying some discretionary foods, it’s also the case that you can’t live a gut-healthy lifestyle for just one week and expect that to provide long-term benefits.

“For gut health, it’s what we do regularly and consistently that matters most.”

For more expert health and lifestyle inspiration tune in to House of Wellness TV, Fridays at 2pm and Sundays at noon, on Channel 7.

Written by Karen Fittall.