The gut plays a pivotal role in our health and wellbeing—not only does it house around 70% of our immune system, but it’s also where we neutralise pathogens, eliminate toxins and manufacture nutrients...
So if it’s your goal to improve your health and wellbeing in the New Year, healing your gut should be at the top of the list! And, by committing to these simple tips from The Beauty Chef Gut Guide, you’ll experience profound and lasting results.
WHAT TO EAT
Enjoy Nourishing, Home-Cooked Meals
While eating at home isn’t always possible, try to minimise how much you eat out, where you have far less control over the salt, sugar, additives and types of fats used in the cooking process.
Choose Organic, Seasonal And Local Produce
It’s fresher and richer in nutrients! Organic produce is also free from nasties such as herbicides and pesticides, which may compromise gut health. Ensure you wash all produce before consuming it, especially anything that will be eaten raw.
Steam Or Sauté Your Veggies
Raw vegetables and salads can be difficult for the gut to digest, especially if your digestion is compromised. However, lightly steaming or sautéing them can help.
Choose Foods That Aid Digestion
Certain foods can stimulate digestion and contain critical digestive-boosting enzymes: bitter greens such as dandelion, rocket (arugula), endive, chicory, and sour foods such as lemon, grapefruit and unpasteurised apple cider vinegar. Fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir and miso are also a delicious way to add flavour to your meals and aid digestion.
This may seem obvious, but it’s worth emphasising: in order to heal your gut, it’s essential to avoid any foods that you know you’re allergic or sensitive to. This includes foods that cause your skin to flare up, as well as gluten, which is a common gut irritant. When your gut has settled, you can slowly reintroduce these foods and monitor your reaction.
HOW TO EAT
Again, this seems like an obvious tip, but many of us don’t realise just how fast we actually eat! By chewing your food slowly and carefully—and putting your knife and fork down between each bite—you’ll ensure your food is semi-liquefied before you swallow it. Digestion begins in the mouth, so chewing properly reduces the amount of work your digestive enzymes have to do once food reaches the stomach.
Remember The Gut-Brain Connection
Given the gut-brain connection (read up on it here), it’s no wonder that chronic stress can negatively impact the balance and diversity of our gut microbiome. Interestingly, this connection works both ways: not only does stress impact our microbiota, but our microbiota can also affect our state of mind. While stress causes an unhappy gut, an unhappy gut also causes stress. In fact, stress can affect the release of digestive juices and diverts blood away from the digestive tract into the muscles for fight or flight. Consequently, digestion takes longer and is less effective. Learning to manage your stress is essential for a healthy digestive system.
Meditation is a great way to relieve stress and unwind, which we know is crucial for maintaining a healthy gut. Science tells us that the impact of meditation on our health extends even further, by influencing how our genes express themselves, particularly in relation to our body’s inflammatory response.
Embrace Mindful Eating
Practise mindful eating by taking a few minutes to breathe deeply before the beginning of each meal. Shift your awareness to your environment, taking in the sights and smells around you.
Gut health and sleep quality go hand in hand. Recent pre-clinical studies have shown that interruptions to the sleep cycle may disrupt the body’s ability to maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Conversely, the beneficial bacteria in your gut can boost your body’s supply of melatonin, the hormone responsible for maintaining your sleep cycles. Melatonin also has a protective effect on stress-induced lesions in the gut, so maintaining a healthy sleep pattern is essential.
Although our gut health undoubtedly influences our skin—beauty begins in the belly, after all—our skin also has its own unique microbiome that helps protect us against infection and inflammation. Our skin is essentially our immune system’s first line of defence. Unfortunately, many commercial skincare products, antibacterial soaps and abrasive cleansers can be problematic as they strip our skin of both pathogenic and beneficial bacteria. Our skin is porous, so any chemical we apply can potentially be absorbed into our bloodstream. While there are countless chemicals to look out for, some of the common offenders to steer clear of include parabens, synthetic colours or fragrances, phthalates and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). Opt for organic skincare products derived from botanical ingredients and wholefoods.
TOXINS IN THE HOME
Maintaining cleanliness at home is important, but being too clean can actually have an adverse effect on our immune systems. Research indicates that exposure to a variety of microbes can train our immune systems on how to react to bacteria in the environment and is key for the development and modulation of our immune system. Harsh antibacterial cleaners designed to kill bacteria target beneficial as well as pathogenic bacteria, so steer clear of toxic chemicals and instead opt for natural, organic cleaning products. Better yet? Make your own cleaning products at home with baking soda, water, white vinegar and essential oils.
Got a super simple tip for better gut health? We’d love to hear it!