Go with your gut feel­ing

New Zealand’s favourite well-be­ing ex­pert an­swers read­ers’ ques­tions about their health.

Matamata Chronicle - - Out&about -

Ques­tion: I’ve no­ticed there is a lot of in­ter­est in gut health at the mo­ment, why is this and why is the gut so im­por­tant? Thanks, Julie

Good gut health is the ba­sis of op­ti­mal health. We have known this for a long time, how­ever the ex­tent with which good gut health in­flu­ences con­di­tions has only been ex­plored in depth more re­cently. We still have a lot to learn, from the sig­nif­i­cance of gut flora di­ver­sity to the im­por­tance of gut health in mood dis­or­ders such as anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion.

Due to the vol­ume of micro­organ­isms our gut con­tains it has be­come an area of in­creas­ing in­ter­est for re­searchers. Your gut holds tril­lions of bac­te­ria that help process your food, pro­duce nu­tri­ents and fight dis­ease. What you eat, drink and think af­fects the en­vi­ron­ment in your gut and your daily choices play a key role in whether those bac­te­ria help or hin­der your well-be­ing.

There are ten times more bac­te­ria in your gut than cells in your en­tire body. Our gut health is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant for our im­mune func­tion and sus­cep­ti­bil­ity to dis­eases. Our gut health is also in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant for our mood, with about 80 per cent of the neu­ro­trans­mit­ter sero­tonin be­ing made in the gut.

About one in five women in New Zealand re­port­edly suf­fer from Ir­ri­ta­ble Bowel Syn­drome (IBS). Peo­ple typ­i­cally ex­pe­ri­ence in­di­ges­tion, bloat­ing, con­sti­pa­tion, di­ar­rhoea or both. Ob­vi­ously this can be in­cred­i­bly dis­tress­ing for suf­fer­ers, but it can also in­flu­ence their abil­ity to ab­sorb and utilise the vi­ta­mins and min­er­als from food. Im­prov­ing di­ges­tion can have the most pro­found ef­fect on your health and with sim­ple easy steps you can make rad­i­cal changes.

Ques­tion: My fam­ily and I are tran­si­tion­ing into eat­ing more whole­foods. I want to over­haul my pantry, but money is an is­sue. What are your key sta­ples for cre­at­ing a healthy pantry/ fridge? Thanks, Ge­orgie

I com­pletely un­der­stand your ini­tial re­ac­tion is to com­pletely over­haul your cur­rent pantry items and start again. How­ever, when tran­si­tion­ing to in­cor­po­rat­ing more whole­foods in your diet small changes make a huge dif­fer­ence and can be less over­whelm­ing fi­nan­cially.

Start by in­vest­ing in good qual­ity oils/fats for cook­ing such as olive, co­conut, ma­cadamia or av­o­cado. Next, look at stock­ing up on some dif­fer­ent herbs and

spices – a won­der­ful and nour­ish­ing way to add flavour to your food. Keep­ing a sup­ply of fresh herbs in the fridge such as co­rian­der, pars­ley, mint, basil and chives can trans­form meals. Fresh lemons and chilli (when in sea­son) can also add a nice zing to your food. Buy­ing raw nuts and seeds in bulk and stor­ing them in air-tight con­tain­ers is also help­ful as they can add flavour and crunch to stir-fries, sal­ads or eaten as snacks.

One of the best things you can do from a nu­tri­tional per­spec­tive is to make your own sauces and dress­ings, as of­ten this is where peo­ple con­sume a lot of in­gre­di­ents they wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily add them­selves. Pro­cessed sauces and dress­ings tend to be high in re­fined sug­ars, poor qual­ity salt or oil. Make a cou­ple of ba­sic salad dress­ings and sauces and keep them in the fridge. Most of all, en­joy this ex­cit­ing new change!

The ad­vice in this col­umn is not in­tended to be a sub­sti­tute for di­rect ad­vice from a health pro­fes­sional.

PHOTO: 123RF

Good gut health is the ba­sis of op­ti­mal health.

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