Feeling a bit sluggish? Not quite yourself? Your microbiome might need a makeover! And we’ve got the tips to help you do it straight from our Well Store in-house, Naturopath Vanessa Huybrechts, for February’s Gut Health Month!
Vanessa’s a specialist in a natural, holistic, and ‘whole body’ approach to health, wellness, and self-care (everything we stand for!). We did a quick Q&A with her, to learn more about gut health and ways to have a happier gut, which is especially important as we head into the colder months. Did you know that 70% of your immune system is in your gut?
So if your tummy’s giving you trouble, your digestive system’s down, or your belly’s a bit bloated, read on – this could be the help your gut’s been gurgling for!
Why is gut health so important?
Your gut is vital for a robust immune system and great health. It’s responsible for all sorts of things: Digestion and absorption of vital nutrients – so all the carbs, fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals - that your body needs to function properly. And for getting rid of waste products from the body.
Gut health is also linked to the central nervous system and mental health via the gut-brain axis, which is basically the signals that are sent back and forth between your gut and your brain. You might not realise but these are very much linked – it’s why when you are stressed or upset, you might get an upset stomach – hence the saying ‘sick with worry’! So simply, a happy gut means a happy and healthier you!
So how do you know if your gut is unhappy? Is there anything to look out for?
There are a few common signs that your gut is not working as well as it should. You may experience symptoms like bloating, excessive gas, abdominal pain and cramps, diarrhoea and/or constipation, heartburn and acid reflux, skin complaints, allergies, fatigue, and poor sleep. If you’re regularly affected by any of these symptoms, it’s worth getting your gut health checked out!
What sort of gut health conditions do you treat as a Naturopath?
The types of conditions I help with include heartburn, acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory conditions like diverticulitis. But having said that, so many health issues and conditions are linked to gut health, it’s always a big consideration in most treatment protocols!
What natural treatments are there for gut issues?
The ones most people have heard of are pre and probiotics. These repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria to maintain a healthy microbiome. But there are also herbs and supplements that can help too, to reduce gut inflammation, improve digestive enzyme production/stomach acid for better nutrient absorption, and to eliminate toxins.
What approach do you take to gut health as a Naturopath?
First, I take a full case history, looking at each of your body systems in detail. This helps to identify the presenting symptoms, but also any underlying connections or chronic issues that may be related. If necessary, a variety of testing can be done – such as blood or saliva tests, stool samples, even hair analysis - to help determine the root cause and what’s going on.
Your diet is also examined in detail including a food diary, and physical signs are also factored in, like your nails, hair, and skin health. A customised treatment plan is then put together which typically includes dietary modifications or suggestions; herbal teas; supplements and/or herbal formula, and lifestyle suggestions that can help, like increasing exercise, meditation, or yoga to reduce stress. It really is about looking at your entire body and overall health – not just an ‘off’ stomach!
What are your favourite everyday products/supplements for best gut health?
Definitely pre and probiotics! You can also try these:
- Psyllium husk and slippery elm to increase fibre
- Carminative teas like peppermint, chamomile, or with dandelion root, to help improve elimination and liver function
- Collagen/gelatin in bone broths or powder form to improve gut integrity
- Apple cider vinegar for improving digestive enzymes
- Fermented foods or drinks like kombucha, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut
And finally, what are your top tips to make your gut healthier and happier?
There are some really simple things you can do to improve your gut health, without making any drastic lifestyle or diet changes:
- Eat an optimal diet - increase fresh fruit and veg (organic if possible), incorporating wholegrains and fermented foods
- Have at least 2-3 vegetarian meals a week – this is a super-easy way to help your gut health
- Reduce processed foods, fast foods, and foods high in sugar and saturated fats
- Try to limit caffeine and alcohol intake as much as possible
- Reduce stress! Anxiety and stress can really exacerbate and trigger gut issues due to the gut-brain axis
- Avoid any known irritants – like gluten/dairy or in some cases high FODMAP foods, which are foods high in specific carbs that can cause gut problems in some people
- Exercise regularly! This helps to improve the movement of food through the digestive tract and elimination of waste, as well as increasing endorphins to help the gut-brain axis
- Try to avoid exposure to pollution and toxins wherever possible
Want to help your gut health?
If this blog has given you food for thought, browse our range of easy-to-take gut supplements. You can also pop into The Well Store at 610 Darling Street Rozelle between Wednesday - Friday to have a chat with Vanessa to learn more about your gut health and wellbeing or email our customer service team Customerservice@thewellstore.com.au
Here’s to being happy inside and out!