How to optimise your gut health

Tune into my recent Breakfast interview to find out about the three different types of fibre you need to take care of your gut, how much red meat is ok to reduce your bowel cancer risk and how to get enough fibre without spending a fortune!

As these interviews are short, here’s some bonus info for you:

About your gut:

  • Your gut and brain are connected – that is why you get ‘butterflies’ in your stomach and have nervous poos
  • Your microbiome is trillions of microorganisms (suggested to be around 2-3kg worth that live inside your gut – principally in small and large intestine). They create an internal ecosystem, a bit like a rainforest
  • The health and balance of this ecosystem affects the health of our bodies in SO many ways, including affecting the immune system, potentially impacting on your weight and your mental wellbeing as well as helping you absorb nutrients more effectively.

What’s ‘normal’ when it comes to our bowels?

  • Motions – formed, not too hard or too soft
  • Smell – it is normal for your motions to smell, the good bacteria are responsible for that as they ferment food remains in your large bowel. It is not normal for it to regularly be extremely offensive though
  • Colour – brown is normal, grey is not and ANY sign of blood be it fresh or dried, needs looking into IMMEDIATELY. Like NOW. Today. This minute. It is NOT normal and a symptom of bowel cancer. 90% of bowel cancer caught early can be treated so get onto this!!!
  • Frequency – there is no ‘normal’ here, it is what is normal for you. That might be once a day, every other day, or a couple of times a day. If it changes over a period of a few weeks, it is something to look into.
  • Gas – yep it is NORMAL to pass wind, 10-30 times a day in fact . On average we pass 500-2000mls a day!!

Bowel cancer claims more lives than breast and prostate cancer COMBINED!

Symptoms:

  • Bleeding from the bottom
  • Change of bowel motions/habits that come and go over several weeks
  • Anaemia
  • Severe persistent or periodic abdominal pain
  • A lump or mass in the abdomen
  • Tiredness and loss of weight for no obvious reason

REDUCING YOUR RISK:

MORE PLANT FOOD AND FIBRE

At the moment in NZ we eat around 20g of fibre a day. Ladies you need 28g and guys you need 38g. There are 3 different types of fibre, ALL are important. As you will see, these are WHOLE foods. One of the issues with the heavily processed foods that say they are ‘high in fibre’ is that they may just have something like inulin added to them, which yes increases the fibre on the nutritional information panel, but… it is NOT the same as getting a variety of fibres from real food!!

  1. Soluble – Soluble fibre dissolves in water to form a thick gel. This slows the time it takes food to pass through the stomach and small intestine, which helps absorb nutrients from your food. It’s found in oats, barley, psyllium, fruits with the skin on, vegetables and legumes.
  2. Insoluble – Insoluble fibre is what people often refer to as ‘roughage’ and it speeds up the time it takes for waste to move through the large intestine, which helps to produce larger, softer stools and reduces the time toxins stay in the bowel. Insoluble fibre is found in wholegrain cereals, pasta, rice and quinoa.
  3. Resistant starch – Resistant starch is fermented by good bacteria in the bowel, which produces short-chain fatty acids (a type of fat) that are important for the health of cells in the bowel, and our overall health. Pulses, cold cooked potatoes and pasta as well as bananas with a green tinge! Here’s how to get enough fibre.

MANAGE RED MEAT

To balance out the valuable nutrients that are found in red meat with the potential risks associated with eating too much, the World Cancer Research Fund suggest if you eat red meat, limit it to 700g raw which is 350-500g cooked/week.

Eat little, if any processed meat, this includes ham, salami, bacon, frankfurters and chorizo. These are classified as Group 1, carcinogenic. This is the same group as alcohol and tobacco. Sorry, I know that is hard to hear.

Read the guidelines here

WATCH YOUR ALCOHOL

This is not new news. As you will already undoubtedly know, every alcoholic drink you have increases your risk of cancer. If you do drink, aim to keep within the guidelines to reduce your risk. I enjoy drinking as much as the next person, but the good thing is, there are some good alcohol free options on the market now to enjoy on our alcohol free days.

The current guidelines (not cancer specific as that is zero), to reduce overall health risks:

  • Ladies that is 2 standard drinks a day for us, 3 for you fellas!
  • Ladies no more than 10 units a week and chaps, no more than 15 for you
  • Also at least 2 alcohol free days a week – see this article here 

In more positive news…there are lots of healthy meat free meal ideas that I have, as well as alcoholic drink options here on my website.

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