Everywhere we turn at the moment we’re hearing about the connection between good health and wellbeing and the state of our gut. Not the size of our gut, but the state of our gut. That means, the balance of good to bad gut bacteria (or microbiome), and their affect on our mental health (mood, anxiety, stress levels and depression) and physical health (your heart, skin, digestion and weight).
Do you need a gut clean up?
Lets use the work clean up vs cleanse. There are too many ‘cleanses’ around at the moment which flush out all your good AND bad bacteria, which is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. instead lets focus on a 14 day clean up of your gut health to get it back on track.
Do you have any of the following symptoms? if so, taking 14 days to rebalance your gut bacteria could really do wonders in helping to address them. We’re not going to do any starvation cleanses, nor are we going to deprive ourselves of any essential nutrients during these 14 days compared to some fasts and cleanses, so the only way is up here. If we don’t fix any symptoms, worst case you’ve tidied up your diet, digestive system and liver in the process which can only help with your physical and mental wellbeing. We are 100% not advocating cutting out any food groups long term which are all essential for your nutrition needs, unless your doctor suggests it for allergy reasons.
Additionally, have you recently been on an antibiotic treatment? These can destroy your healthy gut bacteria and a gut cleanup is highly recommended.
Ok so the symptoms :
- Digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, diarrhoea
- Tired and irritable, mentally exhausted
- Anxiety, stress, depression
- Allergies or a sudden sensitivity to gluten?
- Skin issues – eczema, sore inflamed skin, adult acne breakouts
- Inflammation and joint pain
How does it work?
The first step to getting better gut health is to look at your diet, we can do this over a 2 week period to kick start our healthy gut
- We need to identify the foods which are killing off our good gut bacteria and allowing our bad gut bacteria to thrive. Taking a break from these foods for a few weeks will allow our gut bacteria to rebalance
- We need to eat more of the foods which allow our good gut bacteria to thrive (prebiotics, and probiotics)
- We need to eat more of the foods which look after our gut health not related to bacteria (for instance, fibre to keep things moving).
Before you start
It’s normal to get a little gas and bloating for the first few days or week if you arent’ used to eating that much fibre. You might experience a little diarreah or some headaches. But if you start experiencing discomfort beyond this you should stop and see your doctor.
Step 1 – remove these foods and substances for 14 days
- All anti inflammatory drugs (nurofen, steroids)
- other drugs
- added salt as this can fuel bad gut bacteria and damage your physical gut health
- too much spice, coffee or fizzy drink (try and abstain from all for 2 weeks!)
- added sugars (stick to natural sugars such as those found in fruits, veg, full fat dairy)
- processed foods such as those from packets, tins, bakeries. If it comes in a box, bag or tin and has a label on it, it’s a good idea to avoid it for a few weeks. Eat food as it was presented by nature, or worst case whole grains (brown rice, oats, quinoa, etc)
- processed meats (bacon, ham, salami, other sandwich meats)
- Anything fried or battered
- heavy creams or low fat milk or yoghurt
- You may find that excluding cows milk for 2 weeks is beneficial, but it’s not necessary unless you’ve had recent bouts of gastritis in which case swapping to soy milk for a few weeks can help
- lollies, chocolates, ice cream
- fruit juices
- diet anything
- anything white (white bread, white rice, white pasta)
- red meat (just a few weeks we promise, as it’s important for iron .. ) instead stick to chicken, fatty fish (tuna and salmon) and eggs for protein
Step 2 – eat a lot of these probiotic and prebiotic food sources for 14 days
Probiotic foods (live healthy gut bacteria)
- Yoghurt – make sure the label says it contains active or live cultures, and stay clear of yoghurt full of added sugars which can counterbalance all the good you’re doing by feeding your bad gut bacteria
- Kefir – a live probiotic drink available at health food stores or you can grow your own. Science says it’s better than yoghurt as it contains a more diverse range of healthy gut bacteria
- Miso – traditionally made fermenting soybeans with salt and koji
- Tempeh – fermented soybean which is quite nutty and similar to mushroom
- Pickles – which are just fermented cucumbers
- Kimchi – a spicy cabbage based korean side dish which contains lactic acid friendly bacteria
- Sauerkraut – cabbage which has finely shredded, tastes salty and sour. It has been fermented by lactic acid bacteria and you can keep it for months in a sealed container.
- Kombucha – which is becoming trendy thanks to it’s popularity in cafe fridges everwhere. It’s a green or black tea drink fermented with yeast and bacteria, although the evidence is not as strong as other sources.
- Some aged cheeses – such as gouda, mozzarella, cheddar and cottage cheese – as good bacteria can survive the ageing process
Prebiotic foods (these help to fuel your own good gut bacteria) :
- Vegetables: Jerusalem artichokes, chicory, garlic, onion, leek, shallots, spring onion, asparagus, beetroot, fennel bulb, green peas, snow peas, sweetcorn, savoy cabbage
- Legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans, baked beans, soybeans
- Fruit: Bananas, Custard apples, nectarines, white peaches, persimmon, tamarillo, watermelon, rambutan, grapefruit, pomegranate
- Grains: Barley, rye bread, wholegrain, gnocchi, couscous, wheat bran, whole grain or whole wheat bread, oats
Nuts & legumes: cashew or pistachio
** Remember, rotate your selection regularly, and eat with the seasons where possible. It’s really important that you eat a good variety of foods in your diet, rather than a strict diet of a chosen few from each food group. Eating a large variety will really grow a large and diverse healthy gut bacteria.
Step 3 – Eat foods from the list below which are high in fibre
(note – if you are on a low carb or keto diet, be sure to get enough high fibre, low carb foods which you can see on this list) .
- Green veg
Beans and Legumes
(note – if you are new to beans you might find your gut reacts a little too much to beans in your diet. Try soaking them overnight and baking or roasting them really well, and introduce them slowly. Legumes such as chickpeas and lentils are a little easier to tolerate for newbies).
- Kidney beans
- Navy beans
- Black beans
- White beans
- Brown rice
*** Aim for 20-25g of fibre per day but introduce the fibre slowly to avoid pain and discomfort if you aren’t used to fibre. When you eat fibre, it doesn’t get digested in the small intestine, it travels all the way to the large intestine or colon where the good healthy gut bacteria ferment it, which is good for their health and yours. The good news is that fibre doesn’t just promote healthy gut bacteria, it also helps you manage your hormone levels, appetite, reduce the risk of disease and help maintain weight, so the more the merrier (albeit slowly!), you can read more about the role of fibre in your diet here.
After the 14 days
You can slowly introduce other foods which were eliminated for 14 days, however try and keep processed and sugar rich foods to a minimum for long term gut health. Try and reach for fresh and unprocessed foods high in fibre from the food groups of : fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes each day (again, in good rotation so you get a nice balance of vitamins and minerals) and you’ll find there won’t be much room left for the foods which harm your gut health (we’ll get to them soon!). You can eat red meat several times per week, but aim for fresh fish 3 times per week and chicken, pork or turkey for your meat sources as these are easier to digest.
Try a probiotic supplement
If you find that you can’t eat enough probiotic and prebiotic foods it might be worth taking a probiotic supplement. We recommend probiotics with the strains of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus for good digestive health and mental wellbeing.