Go with your gut feeling
New Zealand’s favourite well-being expert answers readers’ questions about their health.
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.
Good gut health is the basis of optimal health.