Overindulged over the holiday period? Wondering how you can tackle your bloating issues? We caught up with Julie Montagu and chatted about all things gut and how to improve the way you treat your digestive system.
Julie is an internationally recognised yoga instructor, nutrition expert, published author, and the creator of Whole Self. Her platform Whole Self discusses a range of ways to keep on top of your health in order to feel your best you. And with the overindulging season now over, what better time to begin adopting new healthy ways to help your body feel fresh, energised and revived.
With everyone now a little more weary about what they’re eating and putting into their bodies, there’s never been a more prominent time to delve a little deeper into the health benefits and ways you can adopt a healthy lifestyle with a few simple changes. Julie is here to share her five simple secrets.
What does it mean to have a healthy digestive system?
The gut is actually one of the bodies most complex systems, but we don’t need to know absolutely everything about how it works to be able to eat for optimum gut health. The food that we put into our bodies has a huge impact on how healthy we are – and that is true of both our physical health and our mental health. There have been many studies on the topic of digestive health, with so much evidence to support the fact that the function of the gut is inextricably linked to many other aspects of our wellbeing.
For example, digestive health has been shown to impact the onset of certain autoimmune diseases, skin conditions, endocrine conditions, and also some cancers. Believe it or not there are up to 500 different species of bacteria living in your digestive tract. These microorganisms are referred to as gut microbiome. It is key for the health of your body in general that you have ample amounts of this beneficial bacteria in your system. Fortunately, it is possible for you to make certain diet and lifestyle choices to support the growth of good bacteria in your gut.
The gut microbiome can become unbalanced for a number of reasons, such as exposure to ongoing stress, a lack of adequate sleep, over-consumption of processed foods, and the use of some medications. When this happens the function of the immune system, the cardiovascular system, the brain, and our hormone levels can become compromised. The body’s ability to absorb nutrients can also be affected.
How can you spot the signs of poor gut health?
- Stomach discomfort is one of the most obvious signs of an unhealthy gut.
- If you are experiencing heightened levels of bloating or gas, then your digestive system could be the culprit.
- Experiencing constipation or diarrhoea can also mean that your microbiome is out of balance.
- If you find that you are craving sugar more often than usual, then this could be a sign of poor gut health. If your diet includes several foods that are processed, or that contain high levels of added sugar, then the amount of good bacteria in your gut will decrease.
- Another indication of an unhealthy digestive system is if you notice unintentional fluctuations in your weight. When the bacteria in your gut are out of balance, then your body may not be able to absorb nutrients as effectively as it usually would. It will also be harder for the body to regulate blood sugar or store fat in the usual way. On one hand, weight loss could be caused by additional bacteria taking hold in the small intestine, whereas on the other hand, weight gain can happen because of the urge to overeat to compensate for the nutrients that are being lost.
- If you aren’t sleeping well, or have noticed a negative change in your energy levels or mood, then this could be connected to your microbiome. You may be surprised to learn that the majority of the serotonin (the happy hormone) in your body is actually produced in the gut. The presence of serotonin in the body is not only important for feelings of well-being but also to help ensure quality of sleep. Experiencing unexpected skin irritations is not uncommon when inflammation of the gut occurs due to a bacteria imbalance. This sometimes happens when proteins move from the gut through the rest of the body. This then presents outwardly on the skin.
If your diet includes several foods that are processed, or that contain high levels of added sugar, then the amount of good bacteria in your gut will decrease.
How can you improve your digestive health?
- De-stress yourself. Tackling the sources of stress in your life can truly have a positive effect on the health of your gut.
- Do what you love. Increasing the amount of time you spend doing the things that you love is a great way to do this. You may also try relaxing activities, such as yoga, meditation, and walking in nature.
- Sleep it off. Although it can be difficult when you’ve got a busy schedule and endless tasks to complete, getting a decent amount of uninterrupted sleep each night is seriously important – not just for the health of your gut, but for your health in general! If you aren’t asleep consistently for 7 to 8 hours every night, then your body isn’t going to have enough time and energy to replenish itself.
Staying hydrated throughout the day has been shown to improve the health of the intestines.
What else can we do to help?
- Drink Water. Staying hydrated throughout the day has been shown to improve the health of the intestines. This also helps to maintain the optimum balance of bacteria in the gut. To make it effortless to stay hydrated each day, you may want to keep a bottle of water with you at all times and sip from it regularly!
- Reach for the probiotics. Adding prebiotics and probiotics to the diet can be beneficial for most people. Prebiotics encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut, whereas probiotics are living good bacteria! It can be tricky to find the best prebiotics and probiotics, so always do your research and consult your healthcare provider if you are still unsure.
- You are what you eat. Making positive changes to your diet is one of the best things that you can do for your long-term digestive health. Eliminating foods that are high in sugar and saturated fat is a great step. Slowly introduce more plant-based foods into your diet and your gut will soon feel the benefits!
It is unlikely that you ever going to feel the benefit overnight from starting to make these changes to your diet and lifestyle. However, if you continue to prioritise your gut health over time then your gut is going to thank you! Taking control of your health by consciously choosing to treat your body with care and kindness is an incredibly powerful act, and can encourage you to make better choices in other areas of your life too. If you are trying to improve your diet then it can be helpful to learn more about your eating habits. Emotional eating is something that many people have a hard time with. This is essential when we eat as an emotional response to something – both positive and negative!
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