Nutritionist and gut health expert Clarissa Lenherr is our guest author, talking us through her top gut healthy habits to commit to in 2022.
TOP HEALTHY HABITS FOR YOUR GUT
You might have heard that looking after your gut health is pretty important, but it can be confusing and a little bit overwhelming when considering where to start. And whilst it can be tempting to try everything all in one go, sometimes the key to creating long-term, healthy and sustainable habits is to prioritise and commit to just a few changes at one time. Read on for Clarissa’s top healthy habits for gut health and how to implement healthy habits for the long run!
GET IN YOUR FIBRE
One of the easiest ways to support digestive health is by maintaining a high fibre diet, rich in whole grains, fresh fruit, vegetables and legumes.
Adults should aim to consume 30g of fibre a day, however average intakes are around 20g a day.(1) So we can all do with increasing our fibre intake!
To boost your intake of fibre, try these diet adjustments:
- Swap meat for pulses, lentils and chickpeas in dishes such as lasagnas and burgers
- Add nuts and seeds onto dishes - salads, yogurt, soups
- Keep the skin on your fruits and veg - wash well!
- Swap refined carbohydrates (white bread, white rice) to whole grains such as brown rice, wholemeal bread and quinoa.
Drinking enough water has been shown to benefit the mucosal lining of the intestines, support the balance of good bacteria in the gut and promote regular bowel movements. Aim for a minimum of 1.5 litres of water per day and more if you exercise regularly!
If you need yet another reason to put your gym shoes on, exercise can even benefit our gut critters! The research (2) regarding exercise and our gut health is still relatively new, but it has been shown that some factors that may trigger responses from the gut microbiome include changes in blood flow, circulating hormones and intestinal motility, all of which exercise is responsible for.
Aim for daily movement, and that doesn’t have to be hitting the gym each time. Yoga, walking, bike rides - many of these activities can be enjoyable and still get your heart rate going.
Stress is one of the major triggers when it comes to IBS and digestive symptoms. When we are stressed this can impact our stomach acid, breakdown of foods and even lead to intestinal permeability.
To help manage this potential gut health trigger, we can work on our gut-brain axis - the communication pathway that exists between the gut and the brain. The gut contains 500 million neurons, and the two systems are connected by the vagus nerve, which is the longest nerve in the body. When an individual is suffering from IBS there may be a misinterpretation with both signals, resulting in changes in the gut, which may cause uncomfortable IBS symptoms.
Some lifestyle tips to support this relationship include:
- Deep breathing
- Putting time aside for self-care
- Singing and humming
AIM FOR A DIVERSE DIET
A diet made up of different food types can result in a more diverse microbiome. However, the typical western diet is far from diverse, being mainly rich in fat and sugar. It has been estimated that 75% of the world's food is produced from only 12 plant and 5 animal species. (3)
Tips for implementing a diverse diet:
- Plan each meal to be rich in vegetables, legumes, beans and fresh fruits
- Consume fermented foods daily
- Aim to include prebiotic foods such as garlic, artichokes, onions, leeks and asparagus
- Try a new ingredient or recipe each week
GET IN THAT SLUMBER
And as if you needed another reason to get more shut-eye - that is right, sleep even impacts our gut health! When we sleep our digestive system works its magic to digest well and clear out, reducing inflammation and even working to reduce stress which can affect intestinal permeability. In addition, a lack of sleep can cause our satiety and hunger hormones to fall out of kilter, which in turn can lead to cravings and poorer food choices such as more sugar and processed foods. Frequent consumption of these food groups can be detrimental to our gut health.
Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night, and to get the best quality sleep avoid caffeine too late in the day, alcohol 3 hours before bed and eating too heavily just before bedtime.
ADVICE FOR SETTING UP NEW HABITS
Setting up new habits can feel overwhelming, but instead of feeling like you need to overhaul your entire regime, try out a few of these habit formation ideas below:
- Go low and slow - pick one or two things to work on at a time
- Find your motivation - an event, wanting more energy - whatever makes you jump out of bed or feel inspired
- Be accountable - set up a group, work with a friend or engage with a partner on these healthy habits so that have a support network to encourage you and pick you up when you might want to give up!
- Be kind to yourself not critical - if you don’t achieve what you set out for, don’t beat yourself up about it. Focus on all the positive changes you have made and this can often help you feel motivated to get back on track.
USE THE 21-90 RULE
We all want to make good, healthy habits part of our routine. One popular method is the 21/90 rule, which starts by committing to a personal goal for 21 days straight. It is suggested that once you have committed to that timeframe, the goal should have transformed into a habit, and from there it will take 90 days for this habit to be converted into a permanent lifestyle change.
To stay on track with this timeline consider the below:
- Start with something simple - commit to 10 minutes of exercise or add a multivitamin to your breakfast regime
- Chose something that fits into your lifestyle - don’t pick something that is completely out of your comfort zone
- Put the dates in your diary to keep you in the zone
- The closer you get to 90 days, the less likely you will have to think about implementing the habit
If you'd like to learn more about supporting your gut health, why not book a free 1:1 consultation with the Probio7 nutrition team by clicking here.