Gut health has never been trendier: there’s a growing demand for products with a “free-from” benefit, many new food types with digestive health benefits are finding their way onto our supermarket shelves (think kimchi and kefir) and, globally, sales of both digestive enzymes and probiotic supplements are on the rise.
It seems that an increasing number of people are turning to digestive remedies to help with the side effects of a stressful, unhealthy lifestyle. Many of us feel bloated, tired, depressed and ill, and we’re starting to realise that a healthy digestive system could make all the difference.
It’s true: your intestines are the largest barrier between the environment and your body. If your digestive system is healthy, you’ll be protected against disease, and chances are that you’ll feel healthier and happier too.
“Many people don’t know this, but your gut comprises 75% of your immune system,” says Marlene Ellmer, a registered dietician from Somerset-West. “We’re now also starting to see an important link between a healthy gut and good mental health.”
Gut health = good nutrition
While probiotics and digestive enzymes have a role to play, maintaining good digestive health doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. According to Ellmer, basic, good nutrition can go a long way towards keeping your gut healthy.
She shares these tips:
- Eat a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, rich in vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that will support and repair your gut cells.
- Eat enough fibre. If you have 5-7 servings of fruit and vegetables, 1-2 portions of whole-grain foods, pulses or legumes, as well as seeds and nuts every day, you’ll be eating enough fibre. You should have at least one bowel movement every day, and your stools should be soft.
- Eat foods rich in probiotics (the live bacteria in yoghurt, for example) and prebiotics (“food” for the good bacteria). Prebiotic foods include onions, asparagus, mushrooms, garlic and leeks.
- Drink enough water. By increasing your water intake, you’re hydrating your gut cells, which keeps them healthy. Water will also soften your stools and keep you regular.
- Avoid excessive processed foods, caffeine and alcohol. These damage the probiotics in your digestive system, as well as the gut lining.
Feature: Carine Visagie