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Eating for a healthy gut

PRE/PROBIOTICS – EATING FOR A HEALTHY GUT

Huge thanks to Melissa Kuman for this guest blog. Melissa is a Registered Associate Nutritionist. She can be found on instagram or check out her blog.

TOP FACT! Can you believe that the bacteria inside us can weigh up to 2kg and around 10% of what we eat feeds them?

In a nutshell, you can improve your gut by eating certain prebiotic foods and/or take probiotics. This is important as a lot of our immunity is dependent upon our gut (70% of the immune cells are located in the gut) and the microbes that live in it. Plus, 90% of serotonin, the happy hormone is produced in the gut. So basically good nutrition = healthy gut= serotonin and immune system= happy mind and body! Now lets get into this in a bit more detail… 

What is the difference between pro and prebiotics?

Great question! Well probiotics are live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host FAO/WHO (2002). Where as prebiotics are certain fibrous foods (like banana, onions and oats) that help feed the bacteria.

What do probiotics do?

Probiotics rarely colonize in the gut, but rather intermingle with microbes there. As they go through the gut, they interact with gut cells, immune cells and food, giving their benefits. There’s so much research talking about the benefits of probiotics! Studies show that probiotics can improve digestive health and our immunity, including: decreasing antibiotic‐linked diarrhoea; improving resilience to infections; and improving digestion of lactose. There is even some early evidence of benefits in weight management and glycaemic control, depression and anxiety (Jacka 2017).

There’s no harm in taking probiotics but they’re quite expensive, so you could go for prebiotic foods that help feed the good bacteria like oats, bananas, onions, greek yoghurt and Kombucha.

It is important that the probiotics you are taking have research on the certain bacteria they include and that a health benefit has been proven. 

Prebiotics

Prebiotic foods are fibrous foods but not all fibrous foods are prebiotic, see table below. Overall, we need 30g of fibre a day and on average, in the UK, we are consuming just 18g. Both observational and interventional studies show that fibre influences gut health. As Burkitt, 1972 said ‘Dietary fibre has a role in the prevention of certain large bowel and other diseases present in Western countries’. Prospective studies also show it can decrease the risk of bowel cancer and insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes.

So how can we increase our fibre? Why not try eating more nuts and seeds and whole fruit and vegetables. For example you could add banana onto your morning cereal and make a big pot of vegetable curry with whole grain rice.

Interestingly Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London followed his son’s ‘Fast Food Diet’ to investigate the changes in the microbiota over the 10 day period. Tim ate 2 x Large McDonalds Meal [Big Mac/chicken nuggets, fries & Cola], 1 packet crisps & 2 beers for 10 days. After the 10 days, he lost nearly 40% of bacterial species with the good bacteria diminishing. Tim felt constipated, tired and grumpy. Not surprising really.

Other factors influencing the gut

‘Exposure to stress, both physical and psychological can modify the composition of the microbiota, due to increased permeability of the gut, allowing opportunistic bacteria to grow and potentially cause damage.’ Rhee et al. (2009).

It is important to put a bit of self-care into your day to reduce stress like running a bath and to be mindful when eating. Both these can help you have a happy gut.

Prebiotics Probiotic 
banana Yakult- Lactobacillus casei shirota
chicory Codex- Saccharomyces Boulardii
onion Actimel- Lacobacillus Casei
asparagus Mutaflor- Escherichia Coil Nissle
garlic Dicoflor- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
leeks Tempeh
Cocoa Kimchi
Flaxseeds Miso
Artichoke  Kombucha
Barley Live yoghurt
Oats Kefir
Apples Sauerkraut
References

Heiman ML, Greenway FL. A healthy gastrointestinal microbiome is dependent on dietary diversity. Mol. Metab. 2016;5(5):317-320. doi:10.1016/j.molmet.2016.02.005. 

Rhee et al. (2009) Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol; 6: 306-314. 14.

Hooper B, Spiro A, Stanner S. 30g of fibre a day: An achievable recommendation? Nutr. Bull. 2015;40(2):118-129. doi:10.1111/nbu.12141. 

https://theconversation.com/your-gut-bacteria-dont-like-junk-food-even-if-you-do-41564

Jacka BMC Med 2017 ‘A randomized controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression’ 

FAO/WHO (2002) updated Hill et al (2014) Nature Rev Gastro Hepatol 

https://theconversation.com/your-gut-bacteria-dont-like-junk-food-even-if-you-do-41564


What is Orthorexia Nervosa and what can I do?

Orthorexia Nervosa is the newest eating disorder phrase on the block. It was devised by Steven Bratman in 1996, after he noticed a trend in his patients. Ortho means rich or correct.

Orthorexia = an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. It can have elements of anxiety disorders and OCD with it.

Orthorexia Nervosa

Whilst there is an overlap here with anorexia nervosa and people with orthorexia may end up developing anorexia, there is also a big difference. Orthorexia is taking healthy eating to the extreme, it has an aspirational, wellness culture ideal associated with it. This means it is less about weight and more about purity and an ideal lifestyle. Social media has certainly heightened this and fuelled it. With role models who life perfect pure lifestyles of food, exercise and spirituality, it can seem as if that ideal is achievable and realistic. Striving to achieve it leads to feelings of failure and guilt.

The Bratman Orthorexia Self-Test

This is a test devised by Steven Bratman to help identify if you are at risk of orthorexia. If you answer YES to ANY of these questions you may be at risk.  I think it is useful test to read through and think to how much you identify with the statements.

(1) I spend so much of my life thinking about, choosing and preparing healthy food that it interferes with other dimensions of my life, such as love, creativity, family, friendship, work and school.

(2) When I eat any food I regard to be unhealthy, I feel anxious, guilty, impure, unclean and/or defiled; even to be near such foods disturbs me, and I feel judgmental of others who eat such foods.

(3) My personal sense of peace, happiness, joy, safety and self-esteem is excessively dependent on the purity and rightness of what I eat.

(4) Sometimes I would like to relax my self-imposed “good food” rules for a special occasion, such as a wedding or a meal with family or friends, but I find that I cannot. (Note: If you have a medical condition in which it is unsafe for you to make ANY exception to your diet, then this item does not apply.)

(5) Over time, I have steadily eliminated more foods and expanded my list of food rules in an attempt to maintain or enhance health benefits; sometimes, I may take an existing food theory and add to it with beliefs of my own.

(6) Following my theory of healthy eating has caused me to lose more weight than most people would say is good for me, or has caused other signs of malnutrition such as hair loss, loss of menstruation or skin problems.

If you identify with anything in this post then I highly recommend that you reach out to your medical team, GP, a friend, a parent, a dietitian who works in this field like myself. You can also contact B-Eat.

Top tips for Orthorexia:

Here are some steps you can take to help combat Orthorexia, I suggest these are done with the support of a therapist and dietitian.

  1. Unfollow anyone on social media who fuels the thoughts of having to eat a pure diet/lifestyle. Or try a social media detox for a week.
  2. Focus on eating a variety diet. There are no wrong or right foods it is all about the balance and variety that you eat. Nothing is off limits. Nothing is wrong to eat. 
  3. Work with someone qualified in this area to redefine healthy for you. This may include food, movement, quiet space, social time, family time.
  4. Develop alternative coping skills. Can you see how food helps you feel in control and also makes you anxious? Using distraction after a meal and journalling your thoughts can be a good initial step.
  5. Write out a list of your food rules/beliefs. These need to be challenged.
  6. Only allow yourself to get your nutrition knowledge from someone with a minimum of a degree in nutrition    a registered nutritionist or dietitian.
  7. Stop tracking your nutrition. This may take time to do so start with doing it at one meal at a time. 

Improve your Diet for 2019

 
Whilst diets are flying everywhere and detoxes around every corner here is how to make long-term change your diet that will give you lasting health benefits for life.
 
How are you eat impacts your gut health and your long-term risk of diseases. So here are my top 5 food goals, which I’m taking onboard for myself too.
 
 
Increase your fruit and vegetable consumption by one portion.
It may not seem like much but if you manage to do this every day then it’s going to make a long-term change over the year.
 
Plan your meals.
Plan out what you’re going to eat incorporating a variety of foods across the week. Different colour vegetables for the different antioxidants and phytochemicals. Different grains, different protein sources (e.g chicken one day, red meat another, fish and lentils other times.
 
Eat more gut friendly foods.
This can be simply more fibre from whole grains and fruit/veggies and more probiotics from live yoghurt, sourdough bread, pickles or kefir.
 
Go plantbased where possible
Note this this does not mean you need to go vegan. Incorporating plantbased proteins is going to be an ever increasing trend. It’s definitely one to follow. Plant based meals are better in terms of sustainability and environmental impact plus they deliver a range of nutrients you may not get through a meat meal. More on this to come in my next blog posts.
 
Cook from scratch more.
This doesn’t have to mean every day but go for it if you can! Everyone is busy so try planning in times when you can bulk cook and stocking up the freezer. Cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be complicated or take that much time. I will be posting regular recipes on my social media to show what we eat. Trust me, I don’t have hours to cook.
 
However you start your new year try and keep your goals simple, achievable and remember that food is to be enjoyed! 
 
 
 
 

Environmentally Sustainable Diets – how to eat to save the planet.

This is going to be a hot topic. As a nation we have never had such access to food. Yet our diets are at their worst and the way we eat is unsustainable.

‘Sustainable Diets are those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate , safe and healthy while optimizing natural and human resources.’ FAO, 201031

Our food system is responsible for 15-30% of Greenhouse gas emissions (GGE’s) in the UK. This is due to all stages of food production from farm to fork. From using farm machinery, processing and packing food, the transportation and storage of it to how we cook it, then the waste and recycling afterwards. 

Foods that contribute the most to Greenhouse gas emissions are red meat, dairy and soft drinks, so consuming less of these will make a definite impact.

 

 

The production of food accounts for 70% of human water use, which is a huge amount. It is damaging our planet – through deforestation, pollution, a loss of biodiversity and damage to ecosystems.

In the UK we could make a huge difference to our planet just by focusing on not wasting as much food. An extra-ordinary 10 million tonnes of all food produced is spoiled or wasted in the UK every year. Whilst you may think restaurants and large scale catering is responsibly for this, actually the majority (71%) occurs in the home. 

So what can we do to help? This week one blue dot – a toolkit on environmentally sustainable diets has been released by British Dietetic Association with guidance and research on how we can eat sustainably.  Below I summarise the main points.

This imformation is undoubtedly going to raise the questions “So should we all go vegan?”  My answer would be –  Not unless you feel strongly about it or really want to. It’s about making swaps to some meals, eating less of some foods and having more plants in our diet. However also thinking about how and where we shop, what we do with food waste and packaging too.  

Top tips:

  • Reducing red meat intake to 70g or less a day. A lo Or commit to eating meat less times in your week. 50% of the UK population eat meat on a daily basis. 

A reduction in current UK consumption of total meat (108g per day)1 for adults to 50-99g would reduce our carbon foot print by around 22% whilst a further reduction to below 50g per day would result in a 39% reduction.

  • Switch to eating more beans, lentils and pulses, soya, tofu, mycoprotein, nuts and seeds. These are plant based swaps for meat. So a lentil bolognaise or using adding beans into a curry so that less meat is needed. 

 

  • Eat moderate amounts of dairy and include plantbased swaps. There is now a huge range of dairy alternatives, it is important to check these have added calcium in them.

 

  • Choose fish from sustainable sources. Over fishing and poor fishing practices have impacted on fishing stocks and the marine ecosystem has been damaged.

 

  •  Eat more wholegrains including tubers and potatoes.  
  • Go for seasonal fruit and veg or choose frozen and tinned  options.  

 

  • Tap water over soft drinks, tea and coffee. Soft drinks are a large contributor to our carbon footprint due to their processing and packaging. 

 

  • Reduce your food waste.  This is a huge area for us to all focus on. Shopping for only what you need, using all the leftovers and being savvy with portion sizes can all help.

Reference: https://www.bda.uk.com/professional/resources/environmentally_sustainable_diets_toolkit_-_one_blue_dot

Confessions of a dietitian. My kids eat doughnuts.

My children surprise me time and time again with their eating and their ability to hone in on their own needs and internal cues… if only I give them a chance. 

With my oldest turning 8 this week she is exposed to different foods in places outside our home. Sweets at youth club, biscuits for sale at school (yes really in the playground), cake at groups. Totally a time for her to put into practise all her intuitive eating skills and experiement away from me. 

With Miss K being my first child, she is also the one that I weaned first and did all the things wrong with first! Parenting is the hardest job for sure and there is no manual. So I was clear on limiting her biscuit intake and on keeping the sweets up high and on a pedestal. The sweet issue I had to totally back track on, explain I had dealt with this badly and it was time to try a new approach. The result is my kids eat sweets, regularly but they savour them and we have small amounts after a meal or as part of a snack. Today they have both had half an iced doughnut.  I don’t see restriction as the answer, I don’t want my children to grow up sugar-free or feeling cake is only for special occasions, but to appreciate all foods and know some things we eat less of.  I certainly don’t dish out cakes and sweets daily but I do have them around and part of life, Children need to learn how to eat and how to be around foods at home. Home is the training ground, the place to experiment, get things wrong and then try again. 

This weekend I was on a course and my parents looked after my kids. They all did a fabulous job at looking after each other. One thing I noticed was how well the mealtimes went. My mum was worried the smallest one especially had not eaten well and recounted the day to me, she had eaten well just not in what we would percieve to be a normal meal pattern. That’s toddlers! The kids had also convinced my mum to buy them doughnuts (grandparents prerogative) and where I would have cut these in half they had a whole one each…. my boy ate part of it and then gave it back when he had enough. Now this is the boy who I think could pretty much eat a whole chocolate cake – turns out I am wrong, again 😉 and very happy to be. 

So why am I writing all of this?  To show other parents that there is hope. That your children can be trusted around food, that they have an intuitive sense of what to have and how much. It may be that like me, you haven’t been perfect in your approach to food, well it’s not too late to change that and have a conversation with your children.

Here are 3 of my top tips:

  1. No foods are off limits or restricted. However as a parent you decide when to offer a food and what to offer. Your child decides what to eat from that selection and how much. If you have a cupboard of snacks like we do, then it is totally going to happen than you get asked for specific foods items from there, which could be totally fine but it’s working with your child to work out their hunger and what to put with their snack.
  2. Involve your children in the shopping and let them choose some of the foods, even if they are high sugar options you would prefer them not to have. It’s about learning how to have those foods safely, at home. 
  3. Let your children choose what to eat from a selection of food, without judgement. This is HARD. If you have provided a range of food then it is up to them to choose what to have and not up to you to tell them. Sometimes stepping back can allow your child to shine and show their independance off.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences and problems. Do get in touch via social media, a blog comment or email.

Veggie Croquettes

After making these I was named the Empress of Veggies by the one and only Gregg Wallace, so I felt I had to share this recipe! It is a little messy to make (make sure you squeeze the fluid out of the veggies) but those dips combined with the croquettes = heaven. 

Print

Veggie Croquettes

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4
Author Eat Well for Less

Ingredients

  • 200 g cauliflower coarsely grated
  • 200 g sweet potato peeled and coarsely grated
  • 2 medium carrots peeled and coarsely grated (200g)
  • 1 medium courgette coarsely grated (200g)
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 red onion finely chopped
  • 1 small bunch parsley picked and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp onion granules
  • 100 g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas mark 6. Line a large shallow baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Place all the grated vegetables into a large bowl and mix together. Add the remaining ingredients and mix really well, squishing it all together until evenly mixed. Set aside to soften for 15 minutes.
  3. Mix once more then divide into 8 in the bowl, then take each portion and form into two little sausages. Place onto the lined baking tray then repeat with the remaining mixture to form 16 sausages.
  4. Place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the croquette golden brown on the outside, .
  5. While the croquettes bake, prepare the dips.

 

 

Print

Pea guacamole

Author Eat Well for Less

Ingredients

  • 240 g frozen peas
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 garlic cloves roughly chopped
  • 1 red chilli seeded and very roughly chopped
  • 1 lime zested and juiced
  • ½ small bunch coriander very roughly chopped
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Place all the ingredients for the pea guacamole into a large food processor and pulse until just broken down, then scrape the sides of the processor down. Blitz until just beginning to get smooth - you want a little texture left. Tip into a serving bowl and taste

Print

Sweetcorn Salsa

Ingredients

  • 240 g tinned sweetcorn
  • 4 tomatoes chopped
  • 4 spring onions chopped
  • ½ small bunch coriander chopped
  • ½ lime juiced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Place all the ingredients for the sweetcorn salsa into bowl and mix well then tip into a serving bowl.

I hope you enjoy making these and it gets you eating more veggies! 

There is no perfect way to eat

There is no perfect way to eat. The more I learn about nutrition the more I am convinced of this. The science of nutrition is continually evolving, growing and being researched. We are learning all the time and it’s a lot more complex than it looks on the surface, but also there are simple steps we can take to eat well.
 
Things are not always in your control. Our tastebuds, culture, finances and social circumstances are just somethings that can affect how we eat. The good news is there is no perfect way to eat. There are many, many ways to eat a nutritious diet. It’s not about striving to be perfect or have the best meals. It’s about eating as well as you can with what you have. No guilt. No shame. No judgment.
 
 
Our bodies change and need different things at different stages of life, often our bodies are able to adapt and help with this. As a baby, a mums breastmilk will change depending on what the baby needs.  Teenage bodies are able to absorb more calcium than at any other time of life. In pregnancy our bodies adapt and will absorb more of certain nutrients such as iron to provide for the baby and changes in the body. Isn’t the body amazing, it knows what we need better than we do. So one of my top tips is to focus on trusting your body, listening to your body and learning what your internal cues feel like. What does hunger feel like to you when you are very hungry, a little hungry and not hungry at all? What cues does your body give you about the foods it needs? Do you get cravings or suddenly feel you are drawn to certain foods? Sometimes this can be due to the nutrients in these. For example craving vegetables after a trip away when you have eaten differently, or craving salty foods when you haven’t had any salt for some time. 
 
My favoured approach in my eating disorder work is to focus on reaching a healthy state and not a healthy weight. On reconnecting with your body and not ignoring it’s signals. This can be very hard to do and a long journey. It’s not all about the numbers on the scales. Sometimes shifting the focus away from weight can make a huge difference.  There is no perfect way to eat or perfect way to recover from an eating disorder, but we do have amazing bodies that can help us discover the right way for us. 

If you need any help with this then do get in touch. 

Low Carb Diets

Today has been all about carbohydrates as a new study was published in the Lancet. I’ve spoken on ITV new  and Wave 105 radio about it and  video/audio clips are at the end.

So what’s the low down?  This is a controversial topic as low carb diets have become popular. I’m not against this, but I do think it needs to be properly thought through and planned out. Low carb diets are used by some dietitians clinically for diabetes control, weight loss and for some metabolic disorders. However there is a way to do it right. Let’s break the latest study down:

👉 This was an observational study and it used food frequency questionnaires, so not the best data as this is self reported after the event. It is easy to forget what you eat or under/over-estimate. However the study  was followed over 25 yrs  with over 15,000 people taking part.

👉 A U-shaped relationship was found with increased mortality on a high carb or low carb diet. Low carb being <30% calories coming from carbohydrates. High carb being >60% calories coming from carbohydrates.

👉Eating moderate carbs (50-55% of total calories) was shown to be best. This is what our UK guidlines are based on so we already advise this. 

👉 Swapping carbs for plant based fats and proteins has better outcomes compared to animal products. So if you reduce your carbs it does matter what you replace them with.

👉 This study didn’t look at the type of carbs eaten. We want to be eating #wholegrains and reducing refined carbs (unless you have a medical reason to eat a low fibre diet).

👉 Eating lower carb may help weight loss and with diabetic control but it’s all about balance. Not overdoing it and taking all carbs out. Choose sensible sized portions of wholegrain carbs with meals.

👉 Everyone is individual. If you are more active you may need more carbs. If you are recovering from an eating disorder you may need more carbs. If you on a special diet you may need less carbs. If any of that applies to you then seek advice from a #Dietitan or #registerednutritionist.

One big issue that comes out of all of this is we keep on focusing on individual nutrients. It is not helpful to break food down and count the grams you are eating or the calories from each nutrient and could be triggering for an eating disorder. Food is complex, it is made up of many nutrients some of which we can’t even give a precise measure of. So once again we come back to common sense nutrition, eating sensible portions of balanced meals and listening to your internal cues of hunger/fullness.

 

Book a Consultation

Priya provides one to one consultations from her home consultation rooms in Southampton or online using video calls or phone consultations. See below for the types of issues Priya can help with. Skype/Zoom video calls provide a more flexible way to see Priya face to face but from the comfort of your own home. The software for this is free to use. The majority of Priya’s work is done this way as she works with clients all over the country and internationally too. She also offers dietary analysis via email where a thorough analysis is conducted on your food diary and a report emailed back to you.

As everyone is different and needs differing levels of support Priya does not have a set way of working. However she does work from a non-diet and intuitive eating background. This is based on the concepts that diets do not lead to long term change and that it is better to focus on changing health behaviours rather than just diet and a weight focus.  Retuning your body to listen to its hunger and fullness cues, learning to respect your body and listen to its needs can be a longer route but leads to lasting changes for life.

A initial consultation lasts up to 1 hour and includes an in-depth review of your current and previous diet and food related problems plus your weight and medical history. From this information Priya will give education, advice and help you set goals that are realistic and achievable. All advice is individualised and tailor-made for you. You will receive an email summarising the agreed goals set  along with any agreed information. This may include a meal plan, worksheets or educational literature.

Follow-up sessions can be booked and last for up to 30 minutes. The number of sessions you will need will totally depend on your needs. 

Prices: £95 for an initial consultation and £65 for follow ups.

Package: £260 for 1 x initial consultation and 3 x follow up sessions.

Email dietary analysis with report £65

Eating Disorders:

Priya is renown for her expertise in this subject and the majority of her clients will have an eating disorder. She takes a holistic approach, not just looking at nutrition in isolation but helps clients to look at the wider issues too. Many of Priya’s clients have worked with the NHS and need further support or have not met the criteria for NHS input. If you do not think you have an eating disorder but know your approach to food is not as it should be, then get in touch. Working as part of a team of specialists Priya can recommend a therapist for you to work with or can liase and work with your current therapy team as well as your GP. She works with the Wings Eating Disorders Unit in Romsey and also as part of the Marchwood Priory team. If you need help getting your eating back on track Priya is here to help with education, meal planning, practical help, support and an understanding ear.

Weaning Consultations

One of Priya’s specialist and much loved areas – book a weaning consultation for advice, recipes, top tips and support to help you get your baby off to a wonderful start with food. Having weaned 3 children herself Priya has first hand experience as well as the evidence case and the research to support her advice. If you are struggling with fussy eating Priya can also help with this. Family meal planning and suppoprt can also be supported.

IBS:

Priya can help with advice and support for those with IBS, this includes the low FODMAP diet which is a specialist diet that should be followed under dietetic supervision.

Other consultations topics Priya can help with include:  Chronic Fatigue, Learning Disabilities, Family Meals,  Anaemia, Osteoporosis, brain injury and achieving a healthy balanced diet. If you have another dietary issues please do contact Priya to discuss. If Priya is not able to help she can help point you to someone who can.

Some private medical insurance companies cover dietetic consultations, please check with your insurer. Priya is registered with AXA, AVIVA, WPA, BUPA, Exeter Family, Allianz and Pru Health.

Testimonial:

“The support Priya provided to help me gain weight and overcome an eating disorder was above and beyond what I would expect from a dietician. We met regularly and she never failed to surprise me with creative and interesting ideas to introduce variety into my diet and ensure that the weight gain process was as exciting and smooth as it could be. She encouraged me to face my eating disorder head on and used her incredibly extensive and detailed knowledge on nutrition to challenge disordered thinking. Her holistic approach has been so integral to my recovery that I cannot thank her more! I’d recommend working with Priya to anyone, as her caring, enthusiastic and creative approach is something you don’t find easily.” 

Foods for Gut Health

Gut issues are something that plague a lot, if not all of us at some stage of life. Whether it is travellers diarrhoea, a tummy bug, IBS or something more serious, our gut plays a key role in our overall health and it’s pretty complicated science. So here is a little overview of top gut health foods and some science that I think is pretty fascinating.

Gut-Brain Cross Talk 

We all know that our brain send signals to our guts. When you are hungry or about to eat, the brain sends signals so the gut can get ready and start the necessary secretions.

However the gut also has an impact on the brain and a control centre of it’s own.  This is known as a the Gut-brain axis. You will know that if you feel anxious or stressed it can have an impact on your tummy. You may feel this as butterflies or have an upset tummy before a job interview for example. Or have a gut feeling on something – this isn’t made up! Some people can be more sensitive to their guts than others, but in terms of health conditions there are some foods that we can eat to help our guts. 

Research has shown that stress, anxiety and disease states affect the balance of bacteria and microbes in the gut.  This could be an illness or something like a job stress or family event.  For some this will not be lasting, but for some it is. As an example my boy had a stomach bug and this led to lactose intolerance which is usually transient and passes after a few weeks, for him it has lasted but I hope as he grows older it will pass. 

Some people seem more resilient than others. Having a health gut microbiome could help with this, we don’t currently know but research is being conducted on this. It makes sense though that eating well is a logical step.

What is the Microbiome?

Microbiome – collect of bacteria, fungi, viruses and microbes plus their genetic material that are inside the intestines. The microbiome contains 10x more microbial cells than all the humans cells in the body. 

Good Gut Foods:

A top tip I heard recently from Dr Megan Rossi is to aim to eat 30 plant based foods a week. This includes wholegrains, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables. I counted mine up and I think I’m hitting 20 different types so have some work to do! If like me, you aren’t at the 30 mark then try adding in one new plant based food a week. Whenever you shop you could take a look at something different in the veggie aisle you don’t usually buy. I’ve started growing different veggies to make us used them and try new recipes. You want different colours and different types to get the range of prebiotics, fibres and antioxidants too. 

Fermented Foods:

I’ve been working on incorporating these into my own diet more as I’ve have a gut condition and when it is flared up it usually reminds me to attend to my gut microbiome. 

Foods that I try to make at home are live yoghurt, sometimes kefir and sourdough bread (if I am in a baking mood as it takes a while). Right now I’m in yoghurt mode. I heat the milk until I can just keep my finger in for 30 seconds. Then let it cool for a couple of minutes, stir in 3 tbsps of live yoghurt and leave it in a thermos flask (I have this one – but I don’t use their sachets) or somewhere warm for 8-12 hours. I like mine thick so leave it 12 hours.  I used to make yoghurt years ago as a student using a pyrex jug, leaving it covered with a tea cosy on the parcel shelf of my car in the sun! You can also buy Kefir in a lot of places and there are plenty of other fermented foods to try.

Fermented Foods
Kefir
Kombucha
Live yoghurt
Sauerkraut
Kimchi
Dry fermented sausage
Miso
Pickled foods

Probiotics:

Theses are the beneficial microbes that can help health benefits and alter your microbiome. They are known as  live cultures in foods. For example live yoghurt. Now whilst they can be bought as a supplement the problem is unless you know exactly which ones you need in your body you don’t know which ones to take. There is a probiotic guides that show the strains used in research studies that give benefits in different conditions, which can be useful when you need an idea of what to take, the amount and for how long. But we definitely need more research to enable us to be more specific. 

Prebiotics:

These are foods for the gut bacteria. Fibre, polyphenols and inulin being examples of the nutrients that help. There are loads of prebiotic foods and it is likely you are already eating some. They are the plant based foods – so increase these in your diet and you will be helping your gut. Examples include Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onion, asparagus, legumes, leeks, bananas, apples, oats, barley, flaxseeds and even seaweed.

If you want to read a more in depth article that I have written for a nutrition magazine on this topic then do take a look here:

Issue 126 fermented foods IBS and microbiome