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How to reduce bloating and improve gut health

Updated: May 24, 2023

I’m on a mission to keep looking after my gut microbiome, in other words my gut health but what exactly is this and why is it deemed to be a daily consideration in terms of better overall health? Let’s break it down:


The gut - is the gastrointestinal tract or digestive system, a pathway that meanders through our body from the mouth all the way down to our bottom (if you get my drift).


The gut microbiome - this is the internal ecosystem of bacteria, microorganisms, viruses and fungi living in the gut. It is bigger than the average brain, weighs two kilos and is a vital organ that we need to take care of (there is some discrepancy on whether it is or is not an organ just fyi)


Gut health - the function and balance of everything that goes on in the gut microbiome. The microbes function optimally when we are in balance and they constantly adapt to our diet, age, gender, what we touch, what we put in our mouth and our environment. There are so many variables that can affect its composition.


The second brain - the enteric nervous system that regulates our gut is sometimes known as our second brain. This extensive network uses the same cells and chemicals as the brain to help us digest and to alert the brain when something is 'off'.


The gut and the brain are in constant two way communication via the vagus nerve which is commonly known as the gut-brain axis. Information is communicated between the gut to the brain and vice versa using neurotransmitters (such as serotonin) and gut hormones, which all play a vital role in sleep, mood, pain, stress and hunger. This two way communication explains why we can perhaps get abdominal pains or 'butterflies' when we feel anxious or stressed. In reverse if we have a bad experience at a restaurant and get sick we are likely to instinctively avoid the same restaurant.


It is now thought that these neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine are produced in the gut, with as much as 90% of serotonin and 50% of dopamine being stored there. This may explain why gut health issues may contribute to conditions such as depression or anxiety, although this is still a very new area of research. Certainly food for thought though.


Personal insight

As someone who suffered from terrible irritable bowel syndrome (leading to my appendix being removed following a misdiagnosis), I can honestly say that looking after my gut health since the age of twenty five has been life changing, my episodes now are few and far between.


I used to have intolerable bloating and discomfort, nagging stomach pains that would not shift, low mood, lethargy and periods of feeling really run down. Often triggered by stress, living life to the max with little time to recharge and poor diet. Fast forward to mid life and it’s become a non-negotiable part of my lifestyle and has been for years.


Symptoms of poor gut health

Appetite, the ability to digest food, mood, energy levels are all modified by the gut microbes and only recently they have also been found to have a link with the immune system too. So if the balance of the gut microbiome is off, it’s likely the gut won’t be extracting energy from foods as effectively as it could be which is why common symptoms of poor gut health can be (but not limited to):


Feeling tired

Low energy or lethargy

Bloating

Abdominal pain

Indigestion

Constipation

Heartburn

Diarrhoea

Low mood

Anxiety


So how do we improve gut health?

Studies suggest that having a diverse population of gut microbes and maintaining the balance between the good and bad bacteria is the key to a healthy gut. Try any of the following to better support your gut health, increase good bacteria and reduce any symptoms listed above:

  • Eat more fibre by aiming for 30g per day

  • Eat the rainbow by choosing colourful fruits/vegetables

  • Try to eat thirty different variety of plants, nuts and seeds every week

  • Eat fermented foods like kimchi and kefir

  • Eat more omega 3 like cold water fish, grass fed animals, chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, brussel sprouts and edamame beans

  • Avoid processed foods as much as possible

  • Try healthy gut recipes

If you are confused about where to even start let's simplify it. Try a few of the following by adding them on to an existing habit known as habit stacking. There is more likelihood of establishing a new habit IF you attach it to an existing habit. So choose one or two of the following and add them on to an existing habit like daily meals:

  • Add a sprinkle of mixed seeds and nuts to morning cereal

  • Use a variety of plant based milks as an alternative in hot drinks or over cereal

  • For smoothies add in different nut butters, plant based milks, fruits, veg, seeds

  • Add herbs, spices or olive oil to your lunch or evening meal

  • Try one new piece of fruit per week added to your lunch

  • Try one new vegetable per week added to your evening meal

  • Add a mixed salad to your lunch or evening meal

  • Exchange white rice for brown, red or wild rice for lunch or evening meal

  • Try sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes one lunch or evening meal

How to reduce bloating

Abdominal bloating can occur often after a big meal, for some women before or during their periods and for others after they’ve eaten a specific food. It may also be down to eating too quickly and swallowing too much air, constipation or a medical condition such as irritable bowel syndrome (for those worried about an increase in abdominal bloating it may be a suggestion to get checked out by your Dr to rule out any other medical conditions).


Whatever the cause, it can be hugely uncomfortable and at times debilitating let alone embarrassing, especially in the workplace or shared public facilities. In order to help decrease bloating you could try:

  • Keeping a food diary so you can work out what your trigger foods are

  • Drinking peppermint tea or taking peppermint capsules

  • Reducing salt intake

  • Going for a short walk after eating

  • Adding in probiotic foods like live yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi

  • Eating mindfully and slowly chewing every mouthful

Good luck and here’s to a healthier gut going forward!


I am a mindset & behaviour change coach, to find out more about my coaching methods click here. I can help if you are currently struggling with life’s challenges especially around stress, weight management (including gut health), life balance and habit change. Please contact me antonia@healthyhabitslife.co.uk or to book your FREE exploratory consultation visit my contact page. I would be so happy to hear from you :)






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