How happy is your gut? Tips & a gut-friendly recipe from Sophie's Healthy Kitchen

5 min read

How happy is your gut? Tips & a gut-friendly recipe from Sophie's Healthy Kitchen

Gut health continues to be a hot topic in the field of nutrition and for good reason. We have more emerging research along with more individuals wanting to get to the route of their digestive problems. So what do we mean when we say ‘gut health’?
We had the opportunity to speak with Sophie Bertrand, Registered Nutritionist (RNutr), founder of Sophie’s Healthy Kitchen, Author and co host of Forking Wellness book and podcast to give us all the information we're dying to know. She also provides us with a tasty and gut-friendly Lentil Bolognese recipe.
 
Sophie tells us that the gut refers to the function of the bodies gastrointestinal tract which starts at the mouth includes the oesophagus, through the stomach, small and large intestine finishing at the anus. The gut absorbs nutrients and has the responsibility of getting rid of any unwanted toxins. It is the home to both good and bad bacteria and this bacteria can be dictated by many different factors such as stress, environment and diet. You may also hear experts refer to this as the gut microbiome.
 
When the gut is populated with bad bacteria, is can cause digestive discomfort and result in symptoms such as irritable bowels, constipation, gas and diarrhoea.
 
The ways in which you might assess your own gut health may be to identify whether or not you experience discomfort. There is no one way to determine a healthy gut but if you do not suffer with any discomfort, you are probably on the right track!
 
So what factors can influence our gut health…
 
The gut microbiome can be encouraged from the moment we are birthed. Research suggests that vaginal births result in a more diverse range of good bacteria in the child as well as breastfeeding a child. However this is not to say that every naturally birthed, breastfed baby is healthier than those who were born via caesarean and not exclusively breast fed.
 
Stress is a huge contributing factor to gut health. Research has shown that managing and reducing stress levels can have a positive effect on our digestive system. Exercise can help to encourage a healthy gut and aiming to exercise for around 30 minutes a day (whether that be a Pilates class, HIIT workout or a walk) can help manage stress. Meditation and yoga have been found to be particularly influential when it comes to maintaining a harmonious gut.
 
Factors such as lack of sleep, smoking and antibiotic use can encourage poor gut health.
 
Diet can have a big influence on the state of our gut health. A diet high in fibre that contains a variety of plant based foods, has been seen to be an optimal way when it comes to looking after our gut. A diet high in processed foods and low in fibre has been linked to alteration in the microbiome and increased risk of chronic disease. Variety in the diet is key. Think colour… opt for a diverse range of fruits and veggies and try and include as many different plant foods as you can. Think wholegrains, seeds, nuts, legumes etc.
 
Fermented foods and beverages such as miso, tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha have also been said to be good for our gut. Unfortunately we still have limited research on this however there is lots of anecdotal feedback from individuals that include these foods in their diet regularly.
 
What about IBS…
 
If you suspect you may suffer with irritable bowel syndrome it is best to consult a professional. A low FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides, di-saccharides, mono-saccharides, and polyols) diet may be recommended however it is so important that this is followed with a registered dietitian and is only used short term. The guidelines recommend that this be done for 4-8 weeks to help rule out and triggering foods that induce unwanted symptoms. Research has shown that the low FODMAP diet can be effective in up to 70% of people with IBS. However, once your symptoms have reduced to below your tolerance threshold, it is important to trial a structured reintroduction of each high FODMAP food, again with guidance from a Registered Dietitian. This is because not everyone responds to high FODMAP foods in the same way, and it is important to reintroduce some fermentable foods that don’t trigger symptoms back into your diet to increase variety, and help keep your good gut bacteria happy.
 
Should we be taking probiotics…
 
Probiotics are live cultures that can be found in foods mentioned above. However, they can also be taken in liquid or capsule form. There is lack of evidence that suggests we should all be taking probiotics however some people do report positive effects. With so many different variations on the shelves, it may take some trial and error to determine whether one may be beneficial. If you lead a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, it is unlikely you will be benefit from taking probiotics. If you are taking probiotics it may be worthwhile to take probiotic alongside doing so to help repopulate the good bacteria that the antibiotics may have wiped out.
 
Easy ways we can help support a healthy gut…
 
  1. Eat a diet rich in plant foods and aim for 30g of fibre a day.
  2. Challenge yourself to eat 20-30 different plant foods a week (this includes fruits, veg, legumes, pulses, grains, nuts, seeds and herbs)
  3. Avoid antibiotic use unless necessary
  4. Limit alcohol consumption and stop smoking
  5. Aim to exercise for around 150 minutes per week
  6. Try mindful eating
  7. Find time to rest and relax
 
Sophie has also kindly shared one of her favourite gut-friendly recipes with Pocket.
 
Sophie’s Healthy Kitchen’s Lentil Bolognese
 
A warming vegan recipe – Super easy, a good source of plant protein and it makes for tasty leftovers! Serves 3 – 4.
 
Ingredients
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 x 400g tinned tomatoes
  • 240g dried red or green lentils
  • 80ml vegetable broth
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Spaghetti to serve (I used black bean spaghetti)
 
Method
  1. In a large pan over medium heat, sauté the onions and carrots in olive oil for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and dried thyme and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the tomato paste, broth, and tomatoes and stir to incorporate well. Add the lentils and mix well for 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and let simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.
  5. Cook spaghetti according to the pack instructions.
  6. Divide the cooked spaghetti amongst 4 portions and spoon the lentil mixture on top of each. Enjoy!
 
*If you are worried about your gut health and/ or experience concerning symptoms, always consult your GP or Registered Dietitian.*


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