I remember in university as a dietetics student it was so awkward for me to ask people about their bowel habits. What do you mean we have to talk about poo?! Well, did that change very quickly! Fast forward to clinic and here I am talking about poo almost every day. You would be surprised to know that your bowel habits can say a lot about your health and lifestyle. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to go every single day to be “normal”. But yes, that would be great. So, what are some of the important things when it comes to being regular in the loo – fibre, fluid, and movement. And they have other benefits too!
The humble fibre plays such a huge role in general health and especially for a healthy gut. Plant-based foods are high among the gut-loving diets, as it supports diverse gut microbiome. Your microbiome is the combination of all the beneficial microorganisms including bacteria, archaea, viruses, and fungi found within the gut. The fibre (prebiotics) feed these organisms (probiotics) and in turn they produce the energy for the cells that line the gut, support your immune system, mental health and of course, keep you regular. It is helpful to have a wide range of fibre-filled foods every day. Probiotic foods and drinks such as yoghurt, kimchi, kombucha and kefir with active, live cultures are also supportive of a healthy gut.
There are different types of fibres that work together to keep us regular. There is soluble fibre that dissolves in fluid, softens our stool, and slows gut transit time. This is the principle that low glycemic index foods operate under. These fibres when dissolved form a gel around the food which slows the access of the digestive enzymes to the carbs in the meal. This is why they are broken down more slowly, helping with satiety (feeling fuller for longer) and keeping your blood sugars more stable. Examples of these foods include rolled oats, seeds, psyllium husk, lentils, and legumes.
Insoluble fibre provides bulk to our stool and helps to move things along your gut. These fibres provide bulk for your stool and literally help to escort toxins out of the body through your poo. Try incorporating wholegrain cereals and grains, the skin of fruit and veg and some seeds into your meals each day. Then there is resistant starch which goes through your stomach and small intestine undigested, eventually reaching your colon where it feeds your friendly gut bacteria. This helps protect us and reduce our risk of bowel cancer. Foods such as chickpeas, lightly ripe bananas or cooked and cooled potato, rice or pasta would contribute resistance starch to your diet. A practical way of incorporating these awesome fibre filled foods, is aiming for 30 different plant-based foods over the week.
Fluid is another key component of this equation. If you presently have a high fibre diet and you do not have adequate fluid, then you may likely be experiencing some constipation (hard stools). Fibre draws water into the digestive tract and that is how it softens our stool. With inadequate water, our stools will be hard and difficult to move along the digestive tract… and nobody wants that.
Regular movement helps everything and can stimulate your digestive muscles to keep things moving well. The physical activity guidelines encourage at least 30 minutes of activity per day for adults. This can even be broken down into smaller blocks throughout the day. Aim for movement that you enjoy as this supports a healthy gut and helps release those natural feel-good hormones like endorphins, which reduce stress and inflammation. Chronic inflammation can lead to various disease conditions.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the importance of good sleep, as it does play a significant part in overall general health and good gut health. Adults are recommended to have at least 7 hours sleep per night. Lack of sleep not only affects energy levels, but hormones as well as impacting your food choices over the day. This can lead to having more high sugar and fat foods (energy dense) and less of the gut-loving ones.
Check out the guthealthmonth.com website for gut-loving recipes and other practical tips to support a healthy gut.
I hope this helps put things in perspective for you and you will be inspired to try and include a variety of foods that support good gut health over this month. Then hopefully you will gain momentum to keep going. So, if you are struggling in the loo, or with inspiration to get out of your dietary rut, I am here and happy to help. Book in a consultation and we can get things moving 😊