Your guide to Gut Health

By author photo Laura Ford

health

The gut, or gastrointestinal tract, is a collection of the most fascinating organs, playing a key role in the body and is home to billions of bacteria.

  • The gut digests and processes the food we eat into energy and nutrients for our cells, and
    efficiently removes what the body doesn’t need as waste.
  • It’s also home to the gut microbiome, which refers to the different microorganisms including bacteria, fungi, viruses and their genetic material, that live inside our gastrointestinal tract.
  • We often think of microorganisms or bacteria as the bad guys but having a diverse range of organisms in our gut can be beneficial to our health and keeping a balance of good bacteria is especially important.

With more evidence emerging about the importance of gut bacteria, it’s no surprise that gut health is becoming one of the fastest growing health trends worldwide. The health of your gut and your gut microbiome can have an impact on your food cravings, how full you feel after you eat, the way your body breaks down and stores food, and it can even impact your mood and energy levels. Here we answer all your questions and give our top tips to help keep your gut happy!


What are probiotics?

Probiotics are foods that contain live bacteria that can support the beneficial bacteria that live in the gut. Probiotics can be found in a variety of fermented foods including miso, yoghurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and other fermented/pickled vegetables. You can also purchase probiotic capsules that contain a variety of different bacterial strains.
However, it’s best to speak to your doctor about whether to include these as it’s important to get the right strain to target your own personal needs.


What are the best foods to eat to improve your gut health?

It’s important to have balanced diet that includes lots of fibre, plenty of plant based foods as well as a variety of different foods. Aim to eat at least 30 different types of plant foods every week to help increase the diversity of foods your gut is exposed to. This can include things like fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, oats and wheat. Keep track of how many different types of these foods you’re eating and try to increase the variety in your diet.


Why is fibre important for gut health?

Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that the body is unable to break down and digest. When we eat fibre, it passes through the small intestine, into the large intestine where it becomes food for the gut bacteria. The gut microbes eat the fibre, and it gets broken down into a range of beneficial compounds for the body. In addition to the benefits to the gut microbiome, fibre also helps to increase the size of our stools and keeps us regular.


Tips to add more fibre to your diet

  • Eat the skin on your fruit and veggies – this is where most of the fibre can be found.
  • Switch from white bread to wholemeal/
    wholegrain bread.
  • Try adding 1 tbsp unprocessed wheatbran or oatbran to your muesli or cereal in the morning for an extra fibre boost.
  • At mealtimes, ensure at least half of your plate is filled with non-starchy veggies to add more filling fibre and flavour. If you’re a Jenny Craig member you can find a list of non-starchy
    vegetables in your Grocery Guide or speak to your Consultant.

What are some other things can I do to have good gut health?

  • Ensure you’re getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night as a lack of sleep can impact your gut health.
  • Include some kind of physical activity into your day. A simple 20 minute walk each day is enough to improve your gut health. Movement also helps to reduce constipation.
  • Manage your stress levels. High levels of stress can negatively impact the gut microbiome.
    Try mediation, yoga or breathing exercises to help reduce your stress levels.
  • Drink plenty of water! This is important to keep you hydrated and to keep everything moving, especially if you’re increasing your fibre.

Can gut health impact weight loss?

There are no conclusive studies that link gut health and the gut microbiome to improved weight loss, however, consuming a balanced high fibre diet can assist with weight management. Consuming a high fibre diet is beneficial to weight loss as it helps keep you feeling fuller for longer, and high fibre foods like veggies can be lower in kilojoules.


Are there any possible side effects to a high fibre diet?

If you’re moving from a low fibre diet to a high fibre diet, you may experience symptoms of bloating, wind or stomach cramps and this is completely normal as your stomach adjusts to the increased fibre. To minimise these symptoms, gradually increase your fibre intake so that your stomach adjusts accordingly.

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