Is gut health one of those hipster things that entails gulping down kombucha concoctions or should we actually care about it? We look into what gut health actually means...
Since becoming a mum, have you ever felt a bit off, not quite as ‘with it’ as you were pre-children? Perhaps you’ve visited the GP, only to be told “It’s normal to be tired…that’s just motherhood“. Or maybe you’re finding it more difficult to lose weight after your latest pregnancy? We here at HoneyKids have been investigating the role that gut health plays in keeping in tip-top shape and how to avoid the ‘mum fog’ that happens to so many of us. We certainly are not experts in this field, so we’re not doling out expert advice here, just suggesting a starting point to help you get moving on your journey to being the happiest, healthiest mum you can be.
What is your gut and why is gut health important?
When we say gut, we’re talking about the entire digestive tract – including the stomach, small intestine and large intestine. Did you know that many health practitioners refer to the gut as a second brain? This is because the gut ecosystem is made up of about 100 million neurons – that’s more neurons than you’ll find in your spinal cord or, bizarrely, the brain of a cat! Of course the gut isn’t a thinking brain, but its health can seriously affect not only physical wellbeing but also mood and psychological stress responses.
The other huge component of the gut that’s worth talking about are microbes (or bacteria). There are between one and two kilograms of various microbes that live in the gut. Upwards of 1,000 species of microbes have been living in your gut since birth and they help you to digest food, fight viruses and regulate your immune system and hormones.
Doctor and journalist Michael Mosley refers to the good bacteria in your gut as ‘Old Friends’ and cannot overstate their importance. He says Old Friends have “Been given that name because they have evolved with us over millions of years, and are vital for our health. Without enough of your Old Friends around, so the theory goes, your immune system behaves like a drunken teenager, smashing up its own home.” Interesting.
So in a nutshell, taking care of your gut means that you’ll be better off physically and emotionally. Sounds good to us! We’ve found some simple changes we can all make to our diet to improve gut health.
Simple steps to improving gut health
1. Eat probiotic-rich foods
Promoting growth of good bacteria in your gut is super important for overall health – from fighting disease to absorbing nutrients. Foods that are known to be probiotic-rich include kefir (check out Miss Kefir here in Singapore), yoghurt (ensure your yoghurt is low in sugar and includes healthy bacteria like lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium lactis), sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, pickles, tempeh and kombucha. Little Farms has a great selection of probiotic-rich foods, like coconut yoghurt and ready-to-drink kombucha.
2. Try making your own bone broth
Who would have thought that slow-cooking chicken, beef or fish bones could be so good for you? The gelatin in bone broth can help repair your gut lining and increase gastric acid secretion for better digestion. Bone broth contains collagen, elastin, calcium and magnesium (and loads of other minerals) which can help build stronger bones and relieve arthritis. We are big fans of Dr Sara Gottfried’s bone broth recipe.
3. Don’t forget prebiotic-rich foods
You read right – that’s PREbiotic. Prebiotic-rich foods are a non-digestible fibre compound, acting as long-term nourishment for your gut and should form an essential part of your diet. Each type of prebiotic-rich food fosters a different type of bacteria – so go nuts and add as many of these foods as you can into your diet: walnuts, under-ripe bananas, dark chocolate, onions, oats, red lentils, corn, raw leeks, raw asparagus and apples. We love Dr Axe’s tips on how to best include prebiotics in your diet.
4. Cut back on sugar and processed foods
Sugar and processed foods can actually change the balance of bacteria in your gut, reversing all the good work you’re doing with your kombucha and bone broth! Easier said than done we know, but try your best to steer clear of sugar when you can.
5. Drink lots of water
Water – is there anything it can’t do? Drinking loads of water moves things along in your gut and helps sweep away toxins through your urine and poop. Sounds good to us!
If you’re not feeling ‘right’ after kids, get help
Some women are lucky enough to physically and mentally return to a good place not long after childbirth. For others, the healing takes time and possibly some professional intervention. Often symptoms like brain fog, poor sleep quality and trouble losing weight can be signs of an underlying condition. Getting your gut health in order and seeking out the help of a good GP with a particular interest in nutritional medicine or women’s health is a great first step. Some of the HoneyKids team have been seeing doctors at Complete Healthcare International at Rochester Park.
Where to read more about gut health
If you’re interested to know more about gut health and how it relates to women in particular, there’s loads of information out there. Our fave experts at the moment include Dr Axe, Dr Sara Gottfried, Dr Serrallach and Michael Mosley. Happy reading!
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