My gut issues randomly sprung on me sometime in my mid-twenties. I was a graduate with unhealthy eating habits and a much unhealthier lifestyle. I no longer had my youthful teenage gut to fall back on!
It really didn’t take long for the stomach aches, regular bloating, excess gas and diarrhoea to take over my life. Not only did it wreak havoc with my eating habits, but it also affected my mental health, my skin and my immune system. So, I plucked up the courage to send some poo samples to my GP and I was subsequently diagnosed with IBS-D.
I’m not on my own. There are many of us out there struggling with some sort of gut health issue, be it IBS, IBD, GERD, food intolerances, or bloating and constipation.
But fortunately, I’ve come out the other end of my gut journey with a much healthier microbiome. So, read on to find out how to get a healthy gut – based on my own experience!
Please note that this article has been sponsored by Symprove. Their supplement has been vetted by myself and is a product that I use myself on a regular basis. I wouldn’t recommend any products that I don’t love. See my vetting process.
1. I took a probiotic supplement
I’m going to start with this step because I believe it is the easiest one to start with. It can actually help you with quite a few of the other steps mentioned below, like better sleep and less stress. This is because a good quality probiotic supplement will help to deliver friendly bacteria straight to your gut.
This friendly bacteria plays an important role in diversifying your gut microbiome. They encourage your gut to flourish and fight off any harmful bacteria. Gradually over time, this will bring back balance to your gut. Allowing you to heal from any previous damage done to the gut, be it through bad diet, medicine or poor overall health.
When it comes to picking out the best supplement, I would definitely recommend trying out Symprove’s water-based food supplement which contains 10 billion CFUs from 4 different strains of live bacteria. The fact that it comes in liquid form means that it is much more likely to survive the digestive process and make its way to your lower gut, where the friendly bacteria will thrive. Find out more about why I love this supplement in my Symprove review.
2. I lowered my stress levels
If you are a very anxious and stressed person, like me, then you are probably sick of being told to “just stress less” – ah yes, I’d forgotten to do that one simple thing, thank you for reminding me.
But in all seriousness, many gut issues are caused by poor mental health, and vice versa. This is because of how interlinked our gut is with our brain. If you are struggling with poor mental health then your brain will communicate this to your gut, which can respond by tensing up, causing discomfort, or even inducing feelings of nausea. Conversely, if you are dealing with poor gut health, it might struggle to produce an adequate amount of serotonin to transmit to the brain, thereby hindering your ability to experience positive emotions.
So by working on your mental health, alongside taking a supplement like Symprove, you can begin to break the vicious cycle of bad mental health = bad gut health = bad mental health = bad gut health – I’m sure you get the gist.
I like to do a daily meditation activity alongside some breathing exercises before bed, like box breathing. On top of this, I find regular yoga sessions really useful as they help to get your body moving and your brain relaxing!
Bonus tip: Do some deep breathing before you eat a meal as it will help your gut to digest your food
3. I ate a variety of plant-based foods
A plant-based diet offers an excellent solution for any struggling with gut issues, primarily due to its ability to boost fibre intake (read the science). However, a well-rounded selection of plant-based foods not only increases dietary fibre but also introduces a wide spectrum of diverse bacteria to your gut. This microbial diversity is crucial for nurturing a healthy gut microbiome!
Bonus point if you can incorporate some fermented foods into your diet too, since these are naturally probiotic-rich foods. These will help support your daily intake of probiotics that you get from taking Symprove.
It is recommended that you eat at least 30 different varieties of plants every week so that you can consume a plethora of bacteria strains. I find that I can easily get to 30 every week thanks to my wholefoods plant-based diet! But if you don’t fancy completely changing up your diet, then just work on incorporating more plants into your meals.
4. I avoided processed foods
It is becoming very clear that the Western diet is having horrific consequences on our guts. This is because of how reliant this diet is on processed foods (read the science). Yes, I’m talking about all those processed snacks, sugary soft drinks (and the ones with sweeteners too), long-life foods with preservatives and even some fake meats.
Look at the ingredients list and if there are a bunch of ingredients that you don’t recognise then put it back down on the shelf. No one needs all those random chemicals inside their gut!
Although, you shouldn’t strip absolutely everything out of your diet. Everything in moderation! I like to treat myself to the occasional vegan burger, but I eat a plant-heavy diet with lots of whole foods throughout the rest of the week.
If your diet is currently very processed foods heavy, then try to make a few swaps at a time. For instance, you could swap your favourite diet drink with a probiotic-rich kombucha drink.
5. I improved my sleep schedule
If you aren’t sleeping properly then you may be putting your gut at risk! Studies have shown that disturbed sleep can increase your risk of gastrointestinal diseases like GERD (read the science), which can lead to regular heartburn and stomach acid issues. Moreover, a study by ZOE has shown that people who sleep earlier and for longer have better blood sugar control after consuming breakfast.
I’ve been in many situations in the past where I have picked unhealthy foods to eat because I am tired. So, a lack of sleep can have a negative impact on our food choices and our subsequent intake of bacteria. There’s only so much friendly bacteria you can get from takeaway pizza and a bag of sweets.
On the flip side, bad gut health can stop you from sleeping well. And you are probably now starting to see just how interlinked our gut is with everything else in our bodies! This is why my first suggestion for getting a healthier gut was to take a high-quality probiotic supplement, like Symprove, to help break that cycle. Restore some balance to your gut so you can rest easier, in turn supporting the gut with more sleep!
6. I looked for any food intolerances
Many people who struggle with an unhealthy gut will have certain foods that can trigger their condition. And for some, it may well be because they are intolerant to them. For me, it is gluten, sweeteners and fatty foods. It is also quite common to hear of people who struggle with caffeine, spicy foods and legumes.
All of the aforementioned foods trigger my IBS, which leads to abdominal pains, spasms, bloating and diarrhoea. However, the effects are much fewer when I consume these foods at the same time as being on a course of Symprove.
The easiest way to discover food intolerances is by following an elimination diet. In the case of IBS, it is usually a low FODMAP diet. Essentially, you strip back your diet to only basic foods which aren’t known for causing gut-related issues and then reintroduce certain foods gradually to see if your gut reacts badly.
By the end of this diet, you should have discovered any intolerances that you may have. Make sure to eliminate these from your diet, or if they don’t cause severe issues, eat them in moderation.
7. I chewed my food properly
As a child, I used to hate peas so much that I would swallow them whole. So I feel like a complete hypocrite when I tell you that it is vital that you chew your food properly!
Don’t just shovel it into your mouth and swallow it straight away. Your life isn’t one big food-eating challenge. I know there are some of you thinking that this doesn’t apply to you, but if you aren’t chewing your food at least 32 times before swallowing, then yes, this does apply to you.
It may sound boring, but I now actually enjoy eating slower. It allows me to enjoy my food more and I end up feeling full a lot sooner. Which then results in me eating less and my gut having an easier time. Particularly because the chewed-up food is easier to digest.
So, get chewing!
8. I drank plenty of water
It is really important that you stay hydrated. Water plays a vital role in the digestive process as it helps waste to easily pass through your digestive system and it helps to soften your poo. Preventing any potential constipation.
On top of this, depending on the water you drink, it can help to introduce a variety of bacteria to your gut, encouraging further diversification.
But how much water, you ask? Well, this can depend on the climate you live in, but a good rule of thumb is between 6 to 8 glasses (cups) of water a day. This will help to keep your digestive system working effectively and your body hydrated.
I personally like to drink lukewarm water throughout the day and a few herbal teas in the evening. I also like to make sure I drink water first thing in the morning before I consume any food or drink any caffeine, otherwise, my gut has a difficult time digesting any of it.