Your digestive system is a key component of your overall physical and mental health. Research has found that your gut controls so many functions that it is often referred as your second brain.
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is a complex microbiome which plays an important role in gut health, and many other aspects of physical health; even being linked to immune disorders and obesity.
Research has shown that gut health can also impact on mental health, so it’s more important than ever to take care of your amazing ‘second brain’ to keep both mentally and physically well.
Poor Gut Health Symptoms
Do you regularly suffer with any of the following symptoms?
- IBS and other digestive issues
It’s normal to experience an occasional issue after a large meal or poorly cooked food – we can all relate to having had a gripey tummy after a dodgy takeout! but if you experience these symptoms on a daily basis and haven’t been diagnosed with IBS or other digestive issues, then your first port of call should be your GP.
If you’ve not been feeling up to par lately, why not take action to restore your second brain and see if it has a positive impact on your overall wellbeing?
Try these 10 strategies for optimal gut health and healing
1: Assess your medications
Certain medications can affect your digestive system.
If you’re experiencing a side effect from one of your medications that’s related to your digestive system, discuss it with your doctor. You may be able to adjust the dosage, or swap to a gut friendly alternative.
If you’re on antibiotics, be aware that they play havoc with your healthy gut bacteria, so ensure you’re eating a balanced diet with lots of fruit and vegetables.
2: Consider food intolerance
Not all food intolerances are easy to detect and can appear without prior warning.
You may have a food sensitivity that is upsetting your digestive system. Your body is unique, so you may not have all the symptoms that are typical.
If you suspect you might have a food intolerance, discuss it with your doctor; keep a diary of what you’re eating and the symptoms you’re experiencing. There are no specific tests for intolerance but your GP may be able to suggest elimination diets and check for other causes.
3: Remove sugar and refined carbohydrates
Bacteria in your digestive system can feed on sugar and refined carbohydrates and create issues.
In fact, sugar is one of the biggest microbiome disrupters.
If you want to heal your second brain, it’s important to change and modify your diet.
Cutting out sugar and refined carbohydrates is the first step to strengthening your gut health. If the thought of going cold turkey fills you with dread, try cutting down gradually, starting with breakfast. Branded cereals in particular are notorious for their high sugar content.
4: Eat more fibre
Your digestive system needs fibre to function properly and as an adult, you should be eating at least 30g per day. As a nation we aren’t eating enough fibre; according to the NHS website, the average amount consumed is only 18g per day, so upping your intake is fundamental to gut health.
Finding natural sources of fibre is best; nuts, fruit, vegetables, pulses and whole grains are great sources.
5: Try digestive enzymes
Your gut may be lacking the necessary enzymes to digest your food effectively.
Enzymes help break down large macromolecules in food into smaller molecules which helps the nutrients get to the right places throughout your body.
You can find an abundance of enzymes online or in health food shops but ensure you are buying from a reputable source which has full traceabilty and customer recommendations. Your doctor can also suggest or prescribe supplements which help restore your enzymes.
6: Try probiotics
Described as ‘friendly’ bacteria, probiotics can help you heal your gut and may help you feel better.
Certainly in the case of IBS, there has been some evidence to suggest that probiotics can help relieve some of the associated symptoms.
You can find probiotics in a variety of fermented foods such as kefir and kombucha, along with yogurts and some types of cheese.
Probiotics can also be purchased in health food shops and taken as a food supplement in capsule form.
7: Avoid fast/processed food
These foods have high levels of sugar, salt and fat, and are bad for your gut health.
Processed food can suppress the friendly bacteria in your gut and may also increase bad bacteria.
Bloating, diarrhea, stomach cramps and weight gain are far more common in diets which are loaded with processed food; other physical symptoms such as headaches and sleep problems might also be experienced.
8: Chew carefully
Not chewing your food properly can affect your gut health.
Chewing gives saliva a chance to mix digestive enzymes with the food before you even swallow it. This helps your gut break down the food easier.
In our busy world, it’s common to rush meals or eat ‘on the go’ without really thinking about chewing food properly, so take more time and savour the flavours in the food you’re consuming.
Experts recommend chewing each bite of food at least 20 times.
9: Warm up your food.
Eating cold food puts more stress on your digestive system.
This might be surprising, but warm food and liquids are more soothing on your gut. You may even have noticed your stomach gurgling after eating a frozen lolly on a hot day?
Consider the temperature fluctuations of your meals and snacks, and try to be more consistent to see if it helps your digestive health.
10: Eat mindfully and sit down to eat.
Relax and enjoy your food, rather than hurrying through your meal.
As previously mentioned, in our stressful, busy lives, meals are often rushed, without much thought given to what we are consuming.
Eating mindfully is one way to take more time on your meals and will improve your digestive health in the process.
Firstly, take some time to look at the meal in front of you and appreciate the colours, smells and presentation. Slowly bring the food to your mouth and place it in gently, savouring the taste and feelings you slowly begin to move the food around your mouth and start chewing. Notice the texture of the food as your teeth begin to break it down. Chew slowly and swallow. Wait a few moments before repeating.
You’ll find that by eating mindfully, you enjoy mealtimes more and may even eat less.
Another thing to try is meditating. This can help with anxiety, which in turn can help to settle any digestive issues.
Your digestive system may be able to heal on its own. Following these tips will help you return your gut back to a healthier state and then maintain it.
Benefits of looking after your second brain include increased energy, feeling ‘cleaner’, less physical ailments and improved mental wellbeing.
If the above tips don’t alleviate any painful or ongoing symptoms you’re experiencing, discuss your digestive issues with your GP . Remember to keep a diary of your symptoms to help your doctor make a diagnosis.
Have you tried restoring your second brain and did it have a positive impact on your health? Comment below to share your experience.