Gut Health - Fibre, Prebiotics & Probiotics

Following on from my previous gut health post, as promised I will delve more into the actual food side of things and what you can include in your diet to improve your gut health.

There are 3 different types of fibre: insoluble, soluble and resistant starch.

Think of the insoluble fibre as the skin of an apple – it adds bulk to your stool.

The soluble fibre is the flesh of the apple – it promotes movement through your bowels to keep them working regularly. 

Resistant starch is the newer kid on the block in terms of being known – and does exactly what it’s name suggests – resists digestion. It’s able to make it through the small intestine (without being digested) to the large intestine where bacteria then ferments it – this produces short chain fatty acids which can be absorbed back into the body or used by good bacteria in the colon for energy. 

So where can you get these food sources of fibre from? A good mix of fruit and vegetables in your diet is a good starting point, and where possible keep the skin on for mo insoluble fibre. In terms of resistant starch? – this is found in slightly underripe bananas, cooked and then cooled oats, pasta & rice, as well as green banana flour (just to name a few options). 

Then we get to probiotics – these guys are your good gut bacteria, but in order to work efficiently need to be fuelled by prebiotics. 

The best source of probiotics comes from yoghurt, but is also found in kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir and miso. Getting some of these foods in your diet should help to improve your gut health. 

Prebiotic foods to keep the probiotic guys happy include artichokes, garlic, onion, leeks, asparagus, bananas, oats, barley, apples.

So as you can see by getting a mix of fruits, vegetables and grains in your diet you’ll definitely be helping to keep your gut happy 

Gut Health - why is this important?

Your gut can be a funny thing at times. The links with your mental health are obvious – you have an upcoming presentation or performance review at work so you may feel a bit stressed which in turn gives you butterflies in your stomach. Or you might have a race on the weekend and you’re feeling nervous and you might experience a change when you go to the bathroom (I’m talking about poo people haha!). 

Research has shown that 95% of your bodies serotonin is found/produced in your bowels. Serotonin is an important chemical and neurotransmitter in your body that helps regulate mood, appetite, digestion etc. So you’re probably already realising how there is such a significant link between our gut, brain and mental health. 

Looking after your gut is not only important for your mental health but also for athletes and the general population exercising at high levels/intensity. When you exercise/train/compete this stresses your body, including your gut, therefore you need to look after it as it’s crucial for absorbing nutrients which help with fuelling and kickstarting your recovery.

A good start is to keep an eye on your bowel habits and how they are effected by what you eat, your exercise levels and how much fluid you drink. This is a really helpful bit of info to take along to a consultation with your Sports Dietitian/Dietitian. From there I can help you by coming up with a plan to support your gut health, which in turn supports your mental health and get the most out of your performance, whether on the sporting field or in day to day life! 

There’s a lot more to gut health than just the above, and is something I will touch on in future posts!

How to tackle a Grocery Shop

Grocery shopping can be a tricky one sometimes, and it can end in a few items in your shopping trolley that you don’t intend to purchase!

My main tips would be:

  • Never grocery shop on an empty stomach.

  • Make a list of what you need to purchase – that way you won’t forget items.

  • Start around the edges of the grocery store – this is where you’ll find your wholegrains (bread, wraps etc), lean proteins, dairy products and the fruit and vegetables section.

  • Try to only enter the aisles when you know there’s a product in them you need e.g. baked beans, rice, tea/coffee, eggs etc – as you shop more at a certain location you’ll get to know their layout better.

  • Buy items unpackaged so you can choose exactly how much you want and that prevents wastage (e.g. chicken breast from the deli, spinach leaves, carrots etc).