What’s the fascination with gut health?
It used to be when you thought “gut” you thought digestion. Now, if you happened to ask any leading expert, they won’t hesitate to tell you it’s one of the most talked about topics in health today. In particular, the trillions of bacteria (aka the microbiome) that call our guts home. Over the past decade, there’s been a groundswell of research into how gut bacteria affects everything from immunity, mood and weight gain, to food cravings. And the studies suggest its impact is significant. “Good gut health is the basis of optimal health,” explains nutritional biochemist Dr Libby Weaver. “Due to the sheer volume of microorganisms our gut contains, it’s an area of increasing interest for researchers.” In other words: healthy gut, healthy body.
But why are our guts so compromised?
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t experienced the uber-uncomfortable feeling of a bloated stomach, or had issues with their, ahem, bowel movements at some point. In fact, many of us are at odds with our guts—especially the one in five Aussies familiar with the tricky-to-treat symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. The causes of gut issues are varied (and up for debate), but the Gastroenterological Society of Australia points to poor diet, too much processed food, 24/7 stress and even some medications as key agents in throwing the balance of good and bad bacteria out of whack. The result: an unhappy, sluggish system.
Is it possible to create a happier gut?
In a word, yes! For starters, eat a healthy diet high in tummy-loving fibre (aim for 30g a day), stay hydrated, exercise regularly and manage your stress levels (think yoga, tai chi or meditation). Weaver also recommends including fermented and probiotic foods—an easy fix given their growing prevalence on supermarket shelves. Another great tip? Slow down and chew! “So many of us are in such a hurry with our meals, we tend to inhale our food,” Weaver adds. Chew each mouthful well and observe when you’re feeling full. And always check in with your GP if your gut is still unhappy. Look after your gut, and your entire body will thank you for it.