Help Your Clients Pay Attention To Their Gut Health

How our digestive system works to help us eat, process food, and ultimately excrete waste is all a function of the gut. But that’s not all. Gut health is currently receiving a lot of attention as it has now been linked to various aspects of health that seem to have nothing to do with digestion.

As a nutrition professional, having knowledge of the inner workings of the gut and how it can be optimised to ensure overall good health is essential so you can help your clients stay healthy.

How can you help them optimise gut health?

To help us gain more insight on this topic, we caught up with UCL Doctoral Researcher and Chief Science Educator at The Health Sciences Academy, Alex Ruani who took the time to educate us on gut health and its importance.

Let’s begin.

What is gut health?

When people talk about the ‘gut’ they are actually referring to your entire gastrointestinal system, which starts from the mouth where we chew our food, and it ends all the way down at the bottom where we excrete faeces. But a lot goes on in between!

So really when we’re saying ‘gut health’ we’re not just referring to the optimal function of our digestive system, with no pain and no adverse symptoms, but also to all other aspects of our health which may be impacted from poor digestion or issues in our gastrointestinal tract: from immune function, to mental health, to the regulation of hunger hormones.

Why is gut health important?

If our gut is not functioning optimally, we may experience one or more adverse digestive symptoms, including diarrhoea, constipation, reflux, feeling bloated in the abdominal area after eating, stomach discomfort, abdominal pain, gastrointestinal cramps, and many others.

Sadly, it’s been estimated that more than 40% of the population worldwide suffer from gastrointestinal symptoms which are NOT related to a diagnosable gastrointestinal disease.

So, the question is, when there isn’t a medical ‘disease’ diagnosis, then what could explain these adverse gut symptoms? And what can we do about them?

Plausible explanations for non-disease gastrointestinal symptoms include hyper-permeability in the gut lining, altered gut microbiota, altered mucosal function, or altered gut-brain axis communication, among others. These are ‘sciency’ terms to refer to a number of biological mechanisms, and the good news is that nutritional and lifestyle adjustments are key to improve them!

How can we help optimise our gut health?

A multitude of factors impact our gut health on a daily basis – from the amount and quality of our sleep, to our stress levels, to how much we move, to the quality of our diet, to infections, medications, environmental load, and beyond. Here are 5 core strategies for optimising gut health:

Strategy 1. Ensuring sufficient, quality sleep consistently.

Sleep loss, inconsistent sleeping times, interrupted sleep, and poor quality sleep can disrupt the rhythmic production of hormones in the body (including gut hormones like ghrelin making us hungrier during the day) and may be harmful to our gut bacteria, too. In one study, just 2 days of sleep deprivation augmented the number of bacteria associated with fat gain, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. To ensure sufficient, quality sleep, it helps to build a relaxation routine before bedtime, limit the use of blue-light devices in the evening and activate screen filters, and avoid caffeine consumption at least 6 hours before bedtime so falling asleep doesn’t get delayed.

Strategy 2. Managing our stress levels / looking after our mental wellbeing.

Gut health and mental health go hand in hand. For example, with the help of good gut bacteria, gut cells are responsible for most of the production of serotonin, the ‘happiness hormone’. However, high levels of ‘bad’ stress (psychological distress) may reduce the diversity needed in our gut microbial garden, affecting not only the health of our gut but also our mood regulation. Besides relieving high stress levels by engaging in physical activity and in relaxation techniques such as controlled breathing, it is equally important to work on our coping skills to build internal strength and resilience to life stressors. This can help dim the stress response in the body and its negative effects on gut health.

Strategy 3. Removing excesses.

For gut health, it is key to limit alcohol, excess sugar, damaged fats from fried foods, and over-the-counter medications like antacids and painkillers which shouldn’t be taken in the long term. Also, if there are foods you may suspect you’re not tolerating or not digesting well, try keeping a food and symptoms diary to see if you notice any patterns between your intakes and the severity of your digestive symptoms. If you notice that your current symptoms continue or worsen, the next step is to make an appointment with your doctor or a gastroenterologist as soon as possible, and show them your food and symptoms diary.

Strategy 4. Repopulating the gut.

This means addressing imbalances in our gut microbiome by helping to repopulate it with helpful gut bacteria. We can do this by upping our consumption of prebiotics (which feed good bacteria), including dietary fibre. When gut bacteria ingests fibre, the byproducts they release include butyrate, a substance that is associated with the repair of our gut lining and the reduction of gut inflammation. We may also ingest helpful bacteria directly from probiotic-rich foods, including fermented milks (kefir, yogurt, cottage cheese), fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, miso), and fermented cereals (sourdough bread). There are also a number of great probiotic ‘shot drinks’ available (ideally be consumed in the morning with an empty stomach) as well as liquid or freeze-dried probiotic supplements.

Strategy 5. Prioritising nutrients that help repair the gut.

There are a number of nutrients that help repair the gut lining and maintain gut integrity. Some of the most researched ones include vitamin D3 and DHA (both from foods like egg yolks and oily fish), glutamine (an amino acid found in peas, beans, and animal foods), and butyrate (produced by our gut bacteria when we eat fibre, or present in pure butter). All of these have been found to have a key role in repairing the gut lining and reducing hyper-permeability in the gut (what some people call ‘leaky gut’), so that fewer undigested compounds can pass through into the bloodstream, otherwise triggering inflammation and a number of unwanted symptoms like diarrhoea.

List of good/bad foods for ultimate gut health, and the benefits of such foods

How can I acquire the knowledge and skills needed to help my clients optimise gut health?

Getting specialised by completing The Advanced Gut Restoration Advisor certification is your first step towards acquiring the unique knowledge and skills for helping your clients optimise gut health.

During this certification, you will:

  • Discover the science behind factors contributing to poor gut health
  • Learn to help a client repair their gut and maintain their new gut health for the long-term
  • Build a personalised 4-step gut restoration program
  • Ready-to-use templates for your clients: assessments, nutrient swap guides, meal planners, food diaries, health questionnaires, and legal forms
  • And so much more.

And now you can start this certification without paying immediately!

Get 24/7 access to 35 science-based lessons across 13 certifications (including this) and more.

Start your 7-day Free Trial

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[CPD Certified Webinar] Child and Family Nutrition Strategies for Your Practice

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© Copyright The Health Sciences Academy. The content, graphs and charts on this page have been exclusively prepared for The Health Sciences Academy and its prospect students, existing students and graduates. None of the content on this page and website may be reproduced, copied or altered without our explicit permission. Criminal and legal penalties for copyright and other infringement apply. All Terms and Conditions apply.

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