Go with your gut for good health
Intestinal fortitude, gutless, gutsy, I hate your guts – there are so many sayings about our gut, but many of us are shy when it comes to talking about gut problems.
Guts is the slang term for the gastrointestinal tract, and gut health is really important because it’s been linked by clinical evidence to autism spectrum disorders and mental health issues. In fact, as much as 95% of our feel good neurotransmitters, i.e. serotonin, are in our gut, not our brain. Did you know that your intestines are actually 8 metres long?
Is your gut healthy?
If you’ve felt bloated, have abdominal pain, allergies, always seem to suffer from cold or flu, are depressed or irritable, constantly tired, have diorrhoea or constipation, frequent yeast infections, skin rashes or dryness, these can be signs of an unhealthy gut.
There are many other conditions associated with poor gut health, like Crohn’s disease, Coeliac disease (due to wheat/gluten intolerance), bowel cancer, streptococcus from things we take in and can’t digest, and leaky gut syndrome, where nutrients are lost through microscopic holes in the gut.
Food intolerances are also an issue, with the foods below being most problematic among sufferers.
The good news is there are things you can do to turn these symptoms around. We recently heard about gut health from Dr Kathleen Wills, an integrative medicine doctor and clinical nutritionist. She gave us some great tips on keeping your intestines healthy.
As well as the skin prick test and stool tests for food intolerances and allergies, Kathleen has a test kit that covers 200 substances – not just food, but also things like pesticides and chemicals. It’s done using DNA from blood or hair and the results are available within a couple of weeks.
These are our friendly flora and can really help to reduce bloating. Kathleen takes one every day for a healthy immune system and digestion, and to keep her moods up. She also recommends a dairy-based powder probiotic for children with autism and people with irritable bowel syndrome, if they can tolerate dairy.
‘Gut happy’ foods
To improve your gut health, Kathleen suggests that foods like yoghurt, rice, oatmeal, bananas, rice, apple sauce and toast can help. She recommends trying to avoid sulphur-based produce that can irritate your gut, like broccoli, cabbage, spinach, citrus, tomato and onion. It can also be useful to keep a food diary, noting down how you feel after eating certain things, she says.
Lifestyle changes can make a big difference to your gut health. Kathleen suggests you try meditating for a short time each day, taking relaxing epsom salt baths, exercising regularly, drinking clear fluids like ginger or peppermint tea and water, animal, art or music therapy, and massage (especially stomach massage).
Yoga can also be beneficial, Kathleen says – Melissa Carroll from Wellness Retreats kindly showed us some poses that can make a difference to digestive health, like the spinal twist, apanasana (as seen in this overseas image below), and cobra.
We’re big believers in making healthy lifestyle changes here at ecostore – you can find a bunch of great ideas over on our Mind Body Spirit Pinterest board.