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Friday, April 23, 2021

The amazing complexity of the gut

Despite the warmer weather, exercising more, and eating healthy food, you may still feel like something’s missing, writes Stephen Smith from Merewether Fitness Studio.

I just love spring. That time of year when nature comes to life and plants virtually jump out of the ground before your eyes. The weather we have been experiencing here in Newcastle of late has been nothing short of sensational.

This wonderful exuberance shown by nature also translates over to the human psyche, with far more people out and about walking, jogging and swimming, enjoying the lovely fresh mornings and late sunsets due to daylight saving time.

Put simply, it’s that time of year when both nature and humanity get their mojo back. For some people, though, this is not the case.

Despite the warmer weather, exercising more, and eating healthy food, you may still feel like something’s missing.

If this sounds like you, then the problem could be your gut health. If you are someone who’s been on antibiotics for an extended period or have a diet comprising of a lot of sugar, preservatives and additives, then your gut health may be suffering.

The amazing complexity of the gut and its role in our overall health has been a popular topic in the Health and Fitness community over the last 10 years, and even longer in the medical community.

Numerous studies in the past two decades have demonstrated links between gut health and the immune system, mood, mental health, autoimmune diseases, endocrine disorders, skin conditions, and cancer.

Our gut health is considered so important that a faecal microbial transplant, or a poo transplant, (yes, it’s a thing!) is a medical procedure performed to combat several conditions related to gut health.

Owner and Head Trainer at Merewether Fitness Studio, Stephen Smith.

The idea is to basically stimulate the good gut bacteria to grow and can help treat infections or disturbances in the gut microbiome.

There are approximately 100 trillion microorganisms living in the human gut which make up this gut microbiome and, just like humans, they differ greatly and have different tastes. For this reason, even though you may be eating a reasonably healthy diet, it may not be diverse enough to feed all the bacteria, especially the good ones.

So, before you book yourself in for a faecal transplant, eat in such a way that you are feeding the good bacteria rather than the bad.

The best way to maintain a healthy gut is diversity in our eating and this is where some diets who’s focus is purely weight loss, may cause problems by asking you to eliminate certain foods.

You want to eat in such a way that you are encouraging health, vitality and weight control and also one that you can maintain for life. 

If you are not sure where to start then you should consult a registered dietician or check out the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

So, the next time you go shopping, be adventurous and grab something in the fruit and vegetable section you would not normally eat. After all, variety is the spice of life.

Add some exercise and you will have your Mojo back in no time!

My guidelines for a typical week would look like this:

  • Lots of fruit and vegetables eating as many colours and types as possible. In warmer weather we tend to eat more salads so add some raw vegetables to your salads.
  • Legumes: chickpeas, beans, peanuts, lentils etc
  • Two days a week total vegetarian. Be careful if eating ‘meat substitutes” as some of them contain lots of preservatives and additives.
  • Meat. Once again practice diversity in your choices.
  • Wholegrains when it comes to bread, pasta and cereal.
  • Probiotics, these are foods that contain natural and helpful bacteria for example: Plain yogurt of a high quality with live cultures. Also, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and my favourite, dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cacao
  • Read labels. Avoid added sugar and low-fat products.
  • 3-4 nights a week minimum, alcohol free.
  • The first meal of the day should be as healthy as possible regardless of what time you eat it.
  • Lots of water. Lots of sleep and minimise stress.

The key to eating for gut health is diversity and shopping with a mind that’s open to trying new things.

Until next time,

Health & Happiness,


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