Whether you’re taking the latest superfoods and supergreens or CoQ10 capsules, your body’s ability to reap their benefits depends on its ability to capture them. How well your body breaks down and absorbs the nutrients in your food, as well as those in your supplements, depends greatly on the health of your gut. It’s the only feeding pathway to each cell, and its inhabitants make up 70% of your total immunity, so it’s crucial to keep them ticking away.
Our digestive system is our internal health mediator, the middleman which deals with the fuel we feed our bodies. It filters out the good stuff, allocating it to the right places, and removes the bad stuff, the toxins and the waste.
Investing in what you consume without considering this middleman can be costly. A badly maintained old banger certainly won’t utilise the full benefit of premium quality petrol.
“All disease begins in the gut.”
A healthy gut will happily…
- Break down food, from steak to falafel
- Capture nutrients, macro to micro
- Transport those nutrients to where they’re needed
- Get rid of the anti-nutrients (natural or synthetic compounds found in food and in the environment that interfere with the absorption of nutrients) and waste products that your body doesn’t need
- Synthesise B vitamins (the energy vitamins)
Your gut is a machine and, just like with any machine, you need to keep it well-oiled to ensure it performs. This can be achieved using four simple principles:
- Feed the helpful inhabitants (the good bacteria)
- Top-up the helpful inhabitants
- Starve the unhelpful inhabitants (the bad bacteria)
- Repair, maintain and heal the gut lining
These principles can be adhered to by simply eating or avoiding the following foods:
Eat foods that feed the good bacteria
Known as a prebiotics, these are foods containing certain fibrous carbohydrates that nourish the good bacteria, helping it to colonise your gut and grow. Eat plenty of green vegetables - especially cruciferous vegetables like asparagus and broccoli - fruit generally, but bananas especially, as well as pulses and oats.
Eat fermented foods
Cultured and pickled foods are rich in good, live bacteria which top up those already in your gut. Try sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir and miso. These are often also synbiotic, meaning they both feed the health-promoting bacteria, whilst topping up their populations.
Eat gut-healing food
An inflamed gut is an unhealthy gut. Combat this by adding naturally calming herbs and spices such as mint, turmeric and cinnamon to your diet. Omega-3s and essential amino acids also help to heal the gut’s lining.
Avoid refined sugar
Refined sugar can significantly influence harmful gut functions, leading to sugar cravings, insulin resistance and depression. Refined sugar feeds the gut’s bad bacteria, thus hampering the healing efforts of the good stuff.
“Heal the gut and you heal yourself.”
Gerard E. Mullin, MD
To understand the role and the needs of your gut is to overcome the greatest barrier between you and your health goals.
Vitamins and supplements offer us a hugely convenient way to give our bodies a nourishing health boost, but we must consider the holistic picture to extract their full potential. Ensuring that your gut is in top condition ensures your body squeezes every last drop of goodness from the fuel that you give it, meaning you feel as fabulous as nature intended.
So next time you’re deciding to give yourself a health MOT, ask “how’s my gut doing?” The truth is it’ll be dictating much more than you might imagine.