Gut health and general wellbeing
Our gut, or digestive system, is fundamental to all aspects of our health.
It’s not only what we eat, but how we break down that food and absorb the nutrients that determines the state of health we have.
“Good gut health is not just linked to good physical health, but mental health as well,” says naturopath Christine Blanchard.
How to support healthy digestion
“It’s important to digest food well to utilise all the vitamins and minerals from our food.” says Christine
Good digestion needs a few factors to function well:
- Relax - we can’t digest well if we are stressed or eating on the run (or eating whilst checking emails!)
- Chew properly – our mouth has digestive enzymes that help break food down. If we gulp our food, it places an extra workload on the stomach to break the food down
- We need good bacteria in our intestines- there are billions of many types of bacteria in our guts which help break down food further, particularly fibre. They also h help keep our bowel motions regular. Once we have absorbed all the nutrients from our food we need to effectively eliminate the wastes accumulated. Drinking plenty of water will also help promote regular bowel movements
- We need a healthy liver to break down the beneficial fats in our diet and detoxify to keep us running clean. If we overload this with too many saturated fats, too much caffeine, sugar and alcohol, then it can’t do its job of detoxification well
- Poor health or long-term stress, some medications, even lack of adequate sleep may impact the balance of bacteria in our gut
Foods for a healthy gut
Christine recommends keeping it simple when it comes to a good gut health diet
“I eat and recommend a nutrient dense wholefood diet. I try to keep it simple, each meal I aim to include a palm size serve of protein- from fish, chicken, lamb, eggs and several meals a week, plant-based protein such as legumes and lentils.
Next step to a healthy plate is two handfuls of vegetables with every meal (even breakfast). Choose seasonal and local where possible as they usually retain most of their nutritional value. Once a day, usually after I exercise, I include some starchy vegies such as sweet potato and carrots.”
“I like to complete a meal with a good serve of healthy fats – so avocado, some olive oil dressing, or fresh feta cheese. Add some spices or herbs for antioxidant action and flavour and that’s it. “
Christine encourages people to eat and live by the 80/20 rule. “A too restrictive or limited diet can be hard to follow- so 80% of the time, eat well- sleep well- move well- then you can allow 20%of the time for fun food. This is sustainable.”
Including probiotic foods as part of your regular diet is also beneficial. Eat such as yoghurt and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi and kombucha.
Gut health is also dependant on what you don’t eat. “When someone is unwell, the first thing I advise is to cut back or cut out all processed sugars. Sugar can really dampen our immunity, so to give our immune system a chance of helping us, we need to reduce sugar
” says Christine.
Lifestyle habits to support good gut health
For Christine the importance of movement and nature shouldn’t be overlooked.
“Our lives are becoming more and more disconnected from nature, so I see a naturopath’s role is to remind people of how important nature and nature connection is to our wellbeing.”
“We live in such sterile enclosed spaces, with more and more chemicals, that it’s so important for us to get outside with bare feet in the grass. Not only our digestion, but our soul needs this to balance the busyness of modern urban life. “