3 Ways To Boost your Gut Health and Immunity
Ready to learn about how to maximise your gut health and immunity?
We’re officially 24 days into lock down here in NZ, and with the two minis at our feet 24/7 whilst both trying to work full time, Tone and I have certainly been testing our zen mindfulness tactics.
Immunity (and thus gut health) though are still on the tips of everyone’s tongues. Whilst we’ve had a good outcome in NZ in terms of case number quashing thus far, it’s still an opportune time to bunker down and make sure your immune regime is in top shape.
So today I’m teaching you my top 3 ways to boost your immunity… via your gut. That’s right – gut health. What it is, why it’s important (for immunity and more), and how you can max it out.
Boosting your immune system doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you follow these 3 steps, you’ll be on track to maximising your defences against any foreign pathogens that come your way.
What is gut health?
The gut microbiome is an ecological community of micro organisms living in the gastrointestinal tract. There are over 100 trillion living in each of our guts – even more if we consume a plant-based diet.
Gut health is therefore everything about supporting a diverse, healthy, functioning gut microbiome.
Why is it so important?
Encouraging beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract (whether introducing it from scratch, or stimulating its growth by feeding it), is positive in that it protects us against the invasion of pathogens and infections. It also modulates our immune system, thus dampening any overactive inflammatory responses, and reducing inflammation in the body. In other words – good gut health = optimal immunity.
A healthy gut barrier has also been shown to increase the absorption of vitamins and minerals, improve digestion, promote healthy bowel movements (no more loosies), optimise your skin, support healthy weight loss, reduce heart disease, prevent metabolic disorders such as diabetes, and even counter depression, boost mood, and support your mental health.
How good does all that sound?
It truly is the foundation of health across your entire body.
How can you boost the health of your gut?
1. Reduce stress & increase sleep
Lack of stress and sleep are two of the biggest culprits when it comes to weakening our digestive system. When we’re stressed and move into sympathetic “fight or flight” mode, our digestive system is dampened down. All of our bodily energy instead races out to the extremities (to fight, or run away from that tiger that’s chasing you). Thus pulling it away from supporting our normal digestive function. This impacts your ability to break down and absorb nutrients, which is why many people are deficient in numerous vitamins, minerals, and coenzymes, even if they’re eating a healthy diet. Stress has furthermore been shown to reduce both the number and diversity of beneficial bacteria in our gut.
Sleep meanwhile functions in a similar way. When we sleep, the first few hours are spent breaking down the nutrients from our meals the night before. If we eat very heavy meat-laden meals late at night (washed down with alcohol), our digestive system is put under extra pressure to process all this food. This prevents our liver from doing its all important work come 3am, which is to move out to all our essential organs and eliminate and kill off any abnormal (cancerous) cells that have formed.
Eating a heavy diet rich in meat, dairy, alcohol and processed foods, late at night, and then getting very limited sleep, is a sure fire way to reduce your gastrointestinal tracts ability to carry out its functions well. Research has shown that even short term sleep deprivation has the ability to reduce the amount of good bacteria in our gut, thus increasing our risks of immune threats, weight gain, and depression.
2. Increase fruits, veggies & legumes
Fruits, vegetables and legumes are the best source of prebiotics for the digestive system. Prebiotics are a type of dietary fibre that arrive undigested in the colon, where they are fermented by beneficial bacteria allowing those bacteria to grow and thrive. Pre-biotic foods are also cheap! And readily available all year round. All fruits, vegetables, legumes, and wholegrains are abundant in prebiotics, but some of my favourites include garlic, onion, leeks, artichokes, asparagus, peas, lentils, chickpeas, black beans, and oats.
Note that if you start introducing a lot of pre-biotic rich foods into your diet quickly, you may notice an increase in gas. This is normal, and reflective of a non-diverse gut microbiome. If you have irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, or wind already, introduce your prebiotics slowly. Once your microbiome adjusts and becomes more diverse, these symptoms will happily subside. Interestingly enough, individuals on plant-based diets have been shown to have a much wider range of gut bacteria in their digestive tracts, meaning they’re less susceptible to infection and illness.
3. Increase fermented foods
The third way to boost your gut health and immunity is via probiotics and fermented foods.
In contrast to prebiotics which act as food for our beneficial bacteria, probiotics are the beneficial bacteria themselves – pre-formed outside of the body. To make things extra fabulous, when you consume both together (prebiotics and probiotics), they work even more synergistically. For example – oats with coconut yoghurt, a chickpea and kumara salad with a glass of kombucha.
Whilst you can take probiotics in capsule form, an even tastier way to consume them is via fermented foods! These include things like sauerkraut, coconut yoghurt, tempeh, miso, kefir, and kombucha. We have all of these in our fridge at any one time, as they’re all so easy to incorporate into your daily meals.
Right now my favourite brand of kombucha is Batchwell. The company was actually started by a friend of mine alongside 3 other mates, as they couldn’t find a kombucha themselves which ticked all the boxes. NZ made, made from whole ingredients (whole fruit, veg and herbs), with no additives, flavours, concentrates or sweeteners. And brewed the traditional way in super small batches (10L jars!).
They’re also organic, raw and unpasteurised (to maximise the probiotic effect), vegan, gluten and dairy free. Plus – innovatively infused (Hot Cross Bun booch?), whilst also being beautifully packaged so that drinking it is a lush experience too. Even Metro mag rated them in a blind tasting as #1 and #3 best booch in NZ.
Kombucha is a fermented drink, made with a combination of tea, filtered water, and sugar. Through a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) the sugars get eaten, creating a plethora of probiotics, whilst reducing and near eliminating the sugar content. Whilst remarkably retaining much of the sweet flavour.
It’s so important right now to support NZ businesses, and what’s more you can order easily from Batchwell online and get it delivered to you safely, and contact-free. My friends at BW gave me a discount code a while back, to use for myself. But have now generously offered for me to share it with you.
Put in the code BEGOOD at checkout when you order a mixed case, and get 10% off PLUS free shipping, anywhere in NZ (including rural).
We just ordered ourselves this same very mixed case here, as well as two 1L bottles of their limited edition Hot Cross Bun booch (I think they might have a couple left if you’re keen!), and a case of their Sauvignon Blanc and Motueka Hops collection. When you’re not drinking alcohol, these beverages are the most divine way to celebrate dinner together after a long (long with 2 kids…) day in lockdown we’re finding. It’s been an absolute treat to work our way through the flavours each night (Apple? Beetroot? Pineapple & Ginger? Earl Grey?).
I must say, after treating ourselves to these as our evening beverage of choice, I don’t think I’ll even be tempted to go back to wine when lockdown finishes. Especially now they’ve released a brand new range infused with Sauvignon Blanc for us ladies, and Motueka Hops for the gents.
The eco-warrior within also gets an additional kick from drinking their latest “Cascara” kombucha – a bevvy made with the otherwise discarded husks of the coffee bean, the coffee cherry (or Cascara in Spanish). This gives rise to a delicious sour-cherry-type flavour, with no caffeine content, whilst creating additional income for coffee bean farmers who were otherwise throwing these skins away.
Also – the Batchwell guys have given me an EXTRA 3 mixed cases to giveaway over on social! If you’re on my Facebook or Instagram, head on over (here and here) and make sure you’re following both @batchwell and @begoodorganics, as we’ll be launching the competition tomorrow. Once it’s live, all you’ll have to do is comment below the post with one thing you’re going to do to boost your gut health this week.
And, if you want to take your booch utilisation strategy one step further, you can use your new case in these three recipes:
Thanks to the incredible team at Batchwell for partnering with me on this post. I hope you’ll take some tips from the above to maximise your gut health and immunity at this time!
Thanks so much for reading, I can’t wait to chat again soon.
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