If you've ever heard the phrase "second brain" being uttered, then you probably know that it's all about having a healthy gut diet. For many years now, thanks to various studies, there's been evidence suggesting the bacteria in your gut can affect your moods (hence the phrase "second brain"). Of course, looking after your gut and the flora that exist in there isn't just about how you feeling mentally. There's also a lot of people who deal with digestive problems, particularly women.
We spoke to nutritional therapist Henrietta Norton and The Happy Tummy Co. founder Karen Collins about what kind of foods will help you not just beat the bloat but also help your gut feel better. Before all that, however, we also asked both specialists about why great gut health is so important.
Norton revealed that having balance in your life is important, and the amount of sleep, exercise, and stress all play a massive part in how your gut behaves. She even said that usually, when her clients come to her with a digestive problem, it "quite often began with a stressful event. As our digestive system has its very own immune system and over 70% of the serotonin (the feel-good hormone) produced in the body is from the gut, then this is no wonder."
In addition, Collins offered some great overall advice about how to understand your gut better. "Everyone has a different gut bacteria profile. What's right for one person's gut bacteria populations will not necessarily be right for another's," which is sage advice, especially when just because a friend's probiotic worked for them doesn't mean it will for you.
But on to those specific foods that both experts advised on eating for better gut health… Keep scrolling for nine foods that you should be eating.
Extra-virgin Olive oil
Various studies have proven that following the Mediterranean diet can have incredibly positive effects on the body, such as lowering the chance of heart disease, diabetes and strokes. But those aren't the only benefits from following the fairly high-fat diet. High-grade extra-virgin olive oil (notably the cold extracted variety) contains roughly 30 polyphenols that act as antioxidants, helping to reduce not only signs of ageing on the brain and heart but also inflammation in the gut.
Yeah, we can just imagine the face you're pulling right now, and we are pretty much there with you (we love garlic but rarely enjoy the raw variety). However, the allicin in raw garlic is a potent antifungal, and, according to Collins, "these foods enable the multiplication of good gut bacteria. The more populations of good gut bacteria in the gut the healthier you will be." But Collins isn't suggesting that you sit chowing down on raw garlic bulb after raw garlic bulb: She suggests that you "[mince] it up and [stir] through a dish before serving."
Another rather potential socially excluding foodstuff, but you can breathe a sigh of relief as you don't have to eat onion raw to get the benefits of the of prebiotic fibre. Collins advises that to ensure onions are "gentle on the stomach, they are best cooked slowly in butter for 10 to 20 minutes before adding anything else to the pan." Now, that's not so bad at all, is it?
Unless you have a phobia of bananas (hey, it's a thing), there's good news: This fruit is ace for your gut, as it's a good source of prebiotic fibre, which acts as a fertiliser for good gut bacteria populations. "By feeding these good gut bacteria prebiotic fibre, they in turn are able to create more good gut bacteria," says Collins.
Fresh meat stocks and broths
Norton says that eating a broth is great for the gut, as it's "high in the amino acid glutamine, needed to repair damage to tissue in the gut lining, which is often a causative and contributory factor in digestive imbalances."
No, we haven't just invented a new word. Teff, and don't worry if you haven't ever heard of it, is a grain that is brilliant for gut health. Again, it's a great fertiliser for good gut bacteria and a source of insoluble fibre, which acts as a "natural laxative, crucial for people suffering with bloating and constipation," advises Collins. You can buy teff bread from TheHappyTummyCo.com, and you can even get a 20% reader discount using the code Byrdie2017.
Fermented foods have been having a bit of moment, with the market seeing a massive increase in sales on products such as sauerkraut, kefir and kimchi. Of course, the most old-school of fermented products is yoghurt, which is proven to be great for gut health. However, if you fancy branching out a little, why not give sauerkraut a go? Collins suggests just adding a tablespoon or two to a meal to reap the benefits, particularly with fatty foods such as cheese. She also suggests making your own, as many shop-bought versions contain products that make it taste nice but do little for your gut.
She also says that while "fermented [products] are good as a source of probiotic," they "don't need to be overly depended on. It's not necessary if you're already eating a balanced diet."
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