So, it’s that time of the year again – looove is in the air. Or at least we’re told that it should be!
Loved-up or not, instead of focusing in on one random day in February, why not show yourself some love all year ‘round. I’m not talking about face masks and bubble baths (I mean, they’re cool too), more about where all of those lovey butterfly feelings start. It’s a pretty invaluable relationship that you might not even know you could nurture.
GOT IT YET?
I’m talking about our microbiota – those dudes who jumped onboard at birth and work hard for their ride by helping our bodies to function properly.
WHAT DO THEY DO?
Our gut bugs (microbiota) are responsible for a whole bunch of stuff. They not only give us a helping hand with digesting our food and synthesising certain vitamins but they also work as a mediator between our bodies and our immune system.
Food and mood There’s also a growing field of research looking at the gut-brain axis – this is essentially how your brain affects your gut and vice versa. Ever had an ‘anxious tummy’ or a ‘gut feeling’? We’ve known for a while that how we’re feeling can affect our gut but it’s looking like it works both ways now – that our gut health might also affect how we’re feeling.
SO HOW DO WE SHOW THEM SOME LOVE?
- Feed ‘em up – you could start by increasing your fibre intake. In the UK it’s recommended that we get around 30g fibre per day – and most of us are way off the mark. This could come from whole grains, lentils, pulses, nuts, seeds and a whole host of other plants. Head’s-up to increase your fibre intake slowly though so that your gut can get used to it.
- Variety is key – more variety = different nutrients = a wider diversity of gut microbiota, which has been linked to positive health outcomes. Eating the rainbow doesn’t just apply to Skittles! Try aiming for 20-30 different types of plant food per week, giving a wide variety of food and fibre for your gut bugs to work with. Eating ANY variety of plant foods seems to help though – you don’t have to hit 30 every week. Try adding in a few new things each week and see how you go.
- Fluid – ensuring that you’re getting enough to drink throughout the day means that all of that fibre can work its magic. As a rule of thumb, aim for 8-10 cups per day.
- …but watch the boozey fluid – too much alcohol can have a negative effect on the population of helpful bacteria in your gut.
- Joyful movement – finding activities that you enjoy not only helps with your moods but can also ensure that you’re ‘regular’ down there by improving your gut motility – keeping you happy from top to bottom! This doesn’t have to be a super-intensive HIIT class (high intensity exercises for long durations have even been shown to have adverse outcomes on gut symptoms) it can be anything that you enjoy and that gets you moving – check out Active for Life for affordable and free activities for all ages in Brighton and Hove.
- Sleep – too little sleep can mess up your appetite, stress hormones and adversely affect your gut. Make getting some decent sleep your priority in 2019 and reap the benefits in a whole host of areas.
Got concerns about your gut health? Make your GP your first stop to rule out anything sinister and ask for a referral to a dietitian if you need further help with your symptoms.