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Jessica Sepel’s guide to gut health

Jessica Sepel
Close up of Jessica Sepel smiling at the camera

It's the hot topic of 2018, so here's the 101 on gut health

Close up of Jessica Sepel smiling at the camera

Not only did Pinterest name it as one of the big wellness trends of 2018, but it’s also a hot topic in when it comes to your overall health – gut health.

Your gut’s main job is to absorb the necessary nutrients for you to function and flourish and if it’s not working the way it should, it can impact your entire body.

As a nutritionist, I’ve helped many people who have issues with their gut health. There is a range of dietary and lifestyle factors that impact our gut health, from elevated cortisol (the stress hormone) and not enough good gut flora, to a diet lacking in wholefoods, too much gluten and extreme fad dieting.

Think you might be affected?

If you experience bloating, constipation, wind, slow digestion, lethargy, reflux and leaky gut, it might be a sign that you need to work on your gut health.

And, it’s important to address it, because poor gut health can lead to far bigger health issues, like exhaustion and adrenal fatigue.

To understand the basics of gut health, it’s time to go back to a bit of high school biology.

Cooked salmon served with roasted vegetables

Digestion starts in the mouth. When we chew, our saliva coats our food and sends signals to the brain to prepare for the digestive process.

So many people inhale their food, which compromises this first stage of digestion and between work, family and general life admin, it can be hard not to devour your meal.

That’s where mindful eating comes into play - it’s so important to sit down, take your time and enjoy your meals!

Once the food enters the stomach, hydrochloric acid and enzymes work to break it down into small particles. Those particles travel to the small intestine, allowing the nutrients to be absorbed into your blood.

Lastly, the waste matter moves to the large intestine, ready to be excreted – and that’s when you feel the urge to go to the bathroom. It’s important to have a daily bowel movement.

The importance of proper digestion

Believe it or not, the digestive system is closely connected to the brain and emotions. Have you ever been so stressed that you’re sick to the stomach? Or maybe you’ve been really nervous and felt butterflies?

One reason for this is because we make serotonin – the ‘feel-good’ hormone – in our gut, which explains why people with digestive issues tend to experience low moods.

Furthermore, around 70% of our immune system lies in the gut, which could explain why people with autoimmune conditions suffer from gut dysfunction or poor gut health.

When your gut is functioning well, you’ll experience a boost in energy, a healthier immune system and a stronger body.

Here are some simple ways to combat digestive issues and optimise gut health.

My basic rules to healing your gut

Trial eliminating gluten and wheat: I recommend switching to a gluten-free diet for two weeks. During this time take note of any changes in your digestion or energy.

Gluten and wheat are found in most breads, pastas, crackers, cereals and packaged foods. If you get stuck, check out the range of nutritious gluten-free recipes on my website.

Reduce dairy intake: If you consume dairy, stick to a maximum of two serves of each day – and aim to only eat organic dairy if possible.

Avoid eating fruit after meals: When you eat fruit on a full stomach, it ferments and leads to bloating, gas and irritation. Try and enjoy fruit in the morning or before lunch time, and always on an empty stomach.

Avoid all processed foods and drinks: Steer clear from anything that’s in a packet - it sounds simple, but can be so tricky to actually do! This includes chewing gum, diet foods, soft drinks and artificial sweeteners. Food that’s packaged generally contains additives and preservatives, which bloat the stomach and inhibit proper digestion.

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Jessica Sepel smiling in front of vases of greenery

Jessica Sepel

Founder of JSHealth, author of two best-selling books and accredited nutritionist, Jessica Sepel is passionate about taking a balanced approach when it comes to food. Jess believes we need to give up diets to overhaul our relationship with food and advocates for moderation, mindfulness at meals and healthy body image.

Check out more articles by Jess, including the delicious and healthy recipes she’s created exclusively for nib.