Weight Loss & a Healthy Gut


Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Something that has received a lot of attention over the past few years is the focus on a healthy gut, which we now know from the research can impact everything from our weight and immune system to our mental well-being.

To have a ‘healthy gut’ means to have an optimally functioning gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which includes our oesophagus (food pipe), stomach and intestines. Food and drink passes through our GI tract when consumed to be digested, absorbed and then excreted. To have an optimal ‘gut microbiome’ (environment), means that the amount of ‘good’ live bacteria (also known as probiotics) in our GI tract, outweighs any ‘bad’ bacteria.

Some common symptoms of poor gut health can include regular abdominal pain or discomfort, frequent changes in bowel movement including constipation and/or diarrhoea, as well as heartburn or indigestion. However, it’s equally important to look after our gut even if we don’t experience any of these symptoms. Having a healthy gut and eating a varied and balanced diet rich in nutrients such as fibre, is associated with a reduced risk of some non-communicable diseases such as bowel cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

 

How can you improve gut health?

Think ‘F.F.M’ i.e. fibre, fluid and movement, which will not only benefit your gut, but your weight loss efforts too:

FIBRE - In the U.K, the recommended daily amount of fibre is 30g, which we can obtain easily through our diet. It’s advised to consume a variety of soluble and insoluble fibre sources to help soften and provide bulk to the stools, promoting a healthy digestive system. Soluble fibre sources include oats, linseeds, lentils, fruits, veg, beans and barley whilst insoluble fibre sources include wholegrains, nuts, seeds and root vegetables. To increase fibre in the diet, aim to include at least 1-2 sources at each meal, for example;

Breakfast - A whole grain cereal with fruit

Lunch - Salad bowl with wholewheat pasta, a protein and seeds to top

Dinner - Vegetarian chilli made with mixed beans and greens on the side

Snacks - Fruit and nuts

Aim to include as much variety in the diet as possible to promote diversity of gut bacteria, including plenty of plant-based foods too - it’s advised to aim for at least 30 different sources throughout the week! An easy way to do this is to eat the rainbow.

NB When looking to increase your intake of fibre, in order to reduce any symptoms of excess gas and bloating, this should always be done gradually and not too quickly.

FLUIDS - We should be aiming for at least 6 to 8 x 200ml glasses of fluid a day (or more in the hot weather or if we’re exerting more energy either through exercise or work). Keeping well hydrated is key for healthy digestion and regular bowel movements. All fluid counts - from water to squash, milk to soup and of course tea and coffee too (keep in mind though that too much caffeine can cause gut irritation). Spread your fluid intake out across the entire day for optimal digestion and to avoid bloating (which can be made worse by having too many fizzy drinks!).

MOVEMENT - It’s recommended to undertake at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity throughout the week (or 75 minutes of more vigorous activity), in addition to two sessions of resistance/ strength building activity such as weightlifting, bodyweight exercises or even pilates or yoga. Research suggests that regular, gentle yoga practice may also improve symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), supporting a relaxation of the nervous system and reducing stress, which is also a common trigger of unwanted gut symptoms such as bloating, excess gas and diarrhoea.

Recent studies have shown that independent of diet, exercise can also help to boost the ‘good bacteria’ within our gut, increasing the diversity of microbes living in our digestive system, such as bacteria, fungi and viruses, which play an important role in human health and disease prevention.

 

Prebiotics, probiotics and fermented foods

Prebiotics are non-digestible food compounds (e.g. fibre) which help to increase the amount of healthy bacteria (probiotics), aid digestion and help to increase nutrient absorption. Rich dietary sources include wholegrains and some fruits and vegetables such as onions, artichokes, asparagus, garlic and non-ripened bananas.

Probiotics are strains of live bacteria needed for a healthy gut and can be naturally in fermented foods such as live yoghurt, kombucha, tempeh, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut, but can also be man-made. However, it’s always recommended to opt for a food-first approach rather than immediately taking a supplement.

Ideally, we need to consume both food sources of pre and probiotics to protect the bacteria already living in the gut.

 

'Good for your gut' Breakfast

CARROT CAKE PORRIDGE

Ingredients (Serves 1)

40g oats⁣⁣⁣
1 small carrot, grated⁣⁣⁣
15g walnuts, chopped⁣⁣⁣
15g sultanas/raisins⁣⁣⁣
1 tsp of chia seeds⁣⁣⁣
1/2 tsp cinnamon⁣⁣⁣
1/4 to 1/2 tsp mixed spice⁣⁣⁣
1/2 to 1 tsp honey/maple syrup⁣⁣⁣
100ml milk/fortified plant mylk ⁣⁣⁣

⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣Method⁣⁣⁣

1. Add your milk to a small jug/bowl, add the spices & lightly whisk to disperse any large lumps.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣

2. Measure the oats into a pan/bowl, add the grated carrot, honey/maple syrup & spiced milk, stir to combine.⁣⁣⁣

3. Warm on a medium heat for about 5-7 minutes to thicken (or for 2-3 mins in the microwave).⁣⁣⁣

⁣⁣⁣4. Pour into a bowl and top with the chopped walnuts, sultanas/raisins and tsp of chia seeds.⁣⁣⁣

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