Gut health is such a hot topic at the moment and considering we’ve now lovingly labelled our gut as our ‘second brain’, it’s understandable why we should strive to keep it happy and healthy. The gut and our microbiome is an emerging area of research; we know quite a lot, but there is still a surplus of interesting information that is yet to be determined. Our microbiome is as unique as our fingerprint. While generally, it always fulfils similar physiological functions, small differences or changes can cause issues to arise. So, what can you do to make sure your microbiome is content? Read my top five tips for improving your gut health below.

1.     Ensure you are consuming a healthy, well balanced diet that is rich in fibre.

My number one tip for maintaining or improving gut health is to make sure that your diet is full of fresh, wholesome food and plenty of fibre.  The food that we eat plays an essential role in maintaining the diversity and proper functioning of our microbiota. What we feed ourselves, in turn feeds our gut, and it is for this reason why a healthy, balanced diet is absolutely essential. Most Australians do not consume enough fruit and vegetables every day, with only 50% of adults eating the recommended fruit and a shocking 7% meeting the suggested vegetable serve requirements. With these types of statistics, it is no wonder gastrointestinal issues are becoming more and more common. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommends two serves of fruit and 5-6 serves of vegetables each and every day. These types of fresh foods as well as wholegrain breads and cereals, legumes and nuts provide your body with fibre, a key component to a healthy gut. If you’re regularly including plenty of vegetables at your main meals, snacking on wholegrain crackers, nuts and fruits, the additionally fibre can help improve digestion, and keep you going to the bathroom regularly.

The bottom line: make sure your daily diet includes wholegrain breads and cereals, nuts and legumes, and aim for 2 fruits and 5-6 serves of vegetables per day to ensure your nourishing your body and your gut.

2.     Drink water. Keeping well hydrated is important.
So we’ve addressed the fibre, now let’s look at fluids. Fibre is essential for gut health, however you need adequate water to ensure the fibre does its job. During digestion, up to 10 litres of fluid enters the system, from the water we’re drinking, stomach juices and additional bodily liquids and secretions from accessory organs. Aiming for around 1.5-2 litres of water each day should provide enough fluids to keep you well hydrated and your gut functioning as it should. A great way to monitor your fluid intake is to check your urine. If you’re going to the toilet throughout the day and your urine is dark and strong smelling, this is your body telling you to drink more water!

The bottom line: consume 1.5-2 litres (6-8 glasses) of water each day for hydration and gut health benefits.

3.     Chew your food well and eat slower
When we think of digestion, we think of our stomachs and intestines, but in fact, digestion starts right at the very top. Chewing breaks down your food into smaller particles, and mixes it with saliva. Large bits of food can cause some common digestive symptoms to occur, like bloating and gas. Eating slowly allows your brain more time to signal to the stomach that it has had enough food. It takes approximately 20 minutes to register satiety, and you are at much more risk of overeating if you power through your meals in a few minutes. Your body prepares itself as necessary when you’re about to sit down and tuck into a plate of food and rushing this process means your gastrointestinal system has much less time to work efficiently.

The bottom line: Give yourself time to sit down and enjoy your meal but eating over a longer period of time and chewing your food thoroughly.

4.     Look at including fermented foods and probiotics in your diet.
Fermentation is a process that occurs with a lack of oxygen, where microorganisms feed on sugars and starches converting them into acids, gasses or alcohol. This process creates enzymes, B vitamins, vitamin K and probiotics. Probiotics are live microorganisms that confer health benefits on the body when delivered in particular amounts. On some occasions, it is worth taking supplements with specific probiotic strains. A broad scope probiotic can help with the functionality of your gut. Different strains can have different functions within the body, and if you do experience chronic gastrointestinal symptoms, it is worth chatting to a health professional to find out what will work best for you. Some fantastic, nutritious fermented and probiotic-rich food you can introduce to your diet include kombucha, sauerkraut, kefir, yoghurt and miso. Find some of these delicious foods and drinks on the Miss Bliss menu!

The bottom line: One of the easiest ways to incorporate good bacteria into your diet is to consume some high quality fermented foods, or a good quality probiotic yoghurt.  

5.     Engage in exercise or physical activity regularly.
Exercise is great for keeping your digestive system happy, by increasing blood flow to your organs and your digestive tract. As well as being an essential component for a healthy lifestyle, exercise will improve the efficiency of your body. Eating around exercise affects people in different ways, although most find it uncomfortable to engage in strenuous physical activity on a full stomach. Give yourself some time to digest your food properly before exercising to get the most out of your workouts.

The bottom line: Exercise is essential for a healthy lifestyle and efficient digestion. Aiming for regular physical activity throughout your week will keep your body and your gut happy.

Keeping these tips in mind and incorporating some of the suggestions in your daily diet and routine ensures your gut is in the best place for efficient digestion. If you have ongoing gastrointestinal symptoms, such as bloating, constipation and diarrhoea, or if you are unsure in anyway, chat to your general practitioner and dietitian. Health professionals can help identify any issues, and support you in the process of rectifying them. A healthy gut is essential for a healthy lifestyle!

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Andrea is an Accredited Practising Dietitian in the greater Brisbane area providing nutrition support and services to clients of varying ages, genders and cultural backgrounds. Andrea uses a holistic approach in practice, as she believes that food is wonderful and when eaten in proportion brings nothing but enjoyment to every aspect of life. It is her belief that food is social and creative as much as it is sustenance; combine it with a healthy lifestyle and mind and an individuals quality of life can be dramatically improved.

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