colourful veg

21 Positive Gut Health Habits

Eve Kalinik shares her top tips to gut health.

  1. CHEW, CHEW, CHEW – take time to chew food thoroughly and remove ALL distractions and devices whilst eating. Sit in an environment conducive to optimising the process of digestion and focus on eating slowly and mindfully. Even this one change in habit can help to alleviate some of the more common gut symptoms such as bloating, gas and reflux as well as helping you to tune into hunger cues more appropriately.
  1. CREATE CONSISTENCY – our gut likes to have some routine. In turn it will become more regular in its movements. Try to take your meals around a similar time each day, creating structure and giving you crucial pockets of recovery that support the gut-brain connection.
  1. FOCUS ON POSITIVE NUTRITION – aim to turn the focus away from the ubiquitous diets, detoxes and food fads. Think about what you can INCLUDE rather than remove. Unnecessary restrictions of foods or food groups can lead to nutritional deficiencies as well as cultivate a negative relationship with what we eat and how we nourish ourselves physically and mentally.
  1. PRACTISE DAILY MINDFULNESS – the gut-brain connection is one that is incredibly powerful, and it is also a bi-directional relationship so that the gut and brain are in constant communication. Including some kind of daily mindfulness can help to strengthen this connection and alleviate stress that can negatively impact on the gut. Just 5-10 minutes per day can help to support this. It is all about consistency: we need to do something regularly to build a stronger and more resilient mind. Simple breathing exercises are great and totally doable to fit into a busy lifestyle. Perhaps try to include these as part of a bedtime routine.
  1. EAT THE RAINBOW – Plant chemicals known as polyphenols help to feed and support the health of our gut microbiota. Having a colourful plate provides a melody of these polyphenols which helps to create a more diverse, stronger and healthier gut. Some of the highest include berries, broccoli, dark leafy greens and sweet potatoes although they can also be found in less obvious food such as olive oil, herbs and spices, green tea and dark chocolate – yes, a bit of chocolate is good for your gut!
  1. AIM FOR DIVERSITY – a key ingredient for supporting a healthy and happy gut is having sufficient amounts of dietary fibre. Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that we don’t have the ability to break down but provides a crucial food source for our gut microbiota. Quantity is one thing but also diversity is super important as this leads to a more heterogenous microbiota. Fibre is found in all plant foods including vegetables, fruit, nuts & seeds and wholegrains. Simple tips for diversity could be varying your morning oats with another type of grain like rye, spelt or quinoa flakes, or making up a nut and seed mix that you can sprinkle over veggies, salads and soups. Another tip is having some frozen berries of different types so that you can use easily and conveniently.
  1. ENJOY FERMENTED FOODS – these provide a natural source of beneficial bacteria and form a part of most cuisines. These include ‘live’ natural yogurt, kefir, traditional cheese, miso, tempeh, kombucha, kvass, kimchi and sauerkraut just to name a few. Why not experiment with making and enjoying some of the ones you are not so familiar with?
  1. MOVE EVERY DAY – getting some kind of movement into our daily routine has its obvious physical benefits but studies suggest that exercise can have a positive effect on the gut. Aiming for 20-30 minutes every day to get outside and have a walk can also create a moment to reset and relax.
  1. CONNECT WITH NATURE – and with that get a bit dirty! Soil exposes us to bacteria that can help to support a more diverse and enriched gut. Pets can also have a similar enriching effect and help to support the gut-brain connection.
  1. PRIORITISE PILLOW TIME - lack of and/or poor-quality sleep can impact on the health of the gut. Take the hour before bed to switch off devices and wind down the mind. Instead of mindless digital scrolling try immersing yourself in a really great book, or perhaps start a journal to ‘brain dump’ swirling thoughts that might otherwise keep you awake. You could also indulge in a long soak in the bath or listen to some soothing music to help you to drift off blissfully. Poor gut health impacts on sleep so it is important to support both aspects.
  1. GIVE YOUR GUT SOME LOVE – self abdominal massage can help to alleviate symptoms such as gas, bloating and support movement through the gut. Using a massage oil and working in an anti-clockwise motion gently for around 5 minutes can give your gut some hands-on love.
  1. HYDRATE WELL - the gut is a thirsty organ, and it requires regular watering. Most of us need at least 2 litres per day and a good way to achieve this could be filling a large jug with water and adding ingredients such as fresh lemon, cucumber slices and/or herbs such as mint or rosemary to give it flavour.
  1. CREATE BOUNDARIES - with both work and life commitments, to help better manage stress and feelings of overwhelm or anxiety. The effects of chronic stress can have a significant effect on the health of the gut. It is important to recognise when to say no to people and projects (which also makes your ‘yes’ that much more powerful!)
  1. REST & DIGEST – it is important to give our gut a bit of a break between meals as we have different microbes to help us to absorb our food and others that deal with the ‘clean-up’ operation. Aim for a gap of around 4-5 hours between each meal time and try to have dinner no later than 2 hours before bedtime. Like our body and mind are tired by the end of the day, so is our gut!
  1. MAKE EVERY MEAL A DINNER DATE – even if you are dining solo take time to present your meal with care and attention. Present your food with a nice plate and perhaps even a napkin. This can create a marked shift in the way you eat and engage with your food that has a positive effect on satiety levels as well as optimising digestion and helping to slow and calm the mind. Even the very simplest of meals can be transformed into a multi-sensory experience just by framing it more consciously.
  1. START THE DAY WITH SUNSHINE – try to get out first thing in the morning and expose your skin to sunlight. This helps our body to synthesise vitamin D that is important for gut health as well as supporting our natural circadian rhythms and the hormones that govern the sleep-wake cycle which can impact on our gut.
  1. CURB SCREEN TIME – adopting some screen survival techniques can better manage your relationship digital devices and the effect this has on the gut-brain connection. Useful tips might be saving a drawer or box in which to put phones away at mealtimes and to signal ‘off time’ in the evening. Try dedicating a day, or even half a day per week to leaving the phone off or at home. Perhaps even unfollow people and accounts that don’t nourish you mentally and/or emotionally.
  1. SMALL ACT OF KINDNESS – on a day-to-day basis incite a positive affirmation to oneself and in turn the gut-brain connection. These could be enjoying a piece of your favourite chocolate, taking time to listen to your favourite podcast, getting a nice bunch of flowers or heading to your favourite coffee shop and taking time to sip and savour. These send messages back to yourself that you are worth it, and that has a nourishing effect on the gut too.
  1. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU ARE DOING – that is good for your gut! We humans have an inherent negative bias and tend to think about what we are not doing rather than celebrating the things we are already achieving so it is important to regularly remind yourself of this and the positive steps you have already taken to support yourself and your gut! Gut health is a life-long journey so it is much more about the small consistencies and gains rather than the one-offs. And remember to exert kindness and compassion to yourself and your gut if these changes are taking a bit longer to manifest as we are all different and our gut health journeys will differ too.
  1. MINDFUL DRINKING – whilst the odd glass of red wine may have some gut benefits, too much alcohol can be one of the main triggers for gut-related symptoms. Try to sway the balance more to nights off rather than on and stick to a moderate 2 glasses when drinking. Always aim to have with food rather than on an empty stomach. For those nights off enjoy kombucha for extra gut health benefits as well as a delicious non-alcoholic alternative.
  1. THE ART OF POOPING – maintaining regularity and satisfaction with our visits to the bathroom has a lot to do with how we poo. Rushing around and not allowing adequate pooping time doesn’t give our gut ample opportunity to perform at its best. We need to give our gut enough time to ‘warm up’ rather than rushing to get it over and done with. Efficiency is one thing but speed is not the aim. We can also tweak our optimum pooping position by slightly leaning forward with a straight spine and taking a moment to relax before beginning. Once done we can enjoy a sense of evacuation euphoria and go about our daily business, now that we have mastered the art of doing the business.