By Crystal Austin, Accredited Practising Dietitian, Owner and Principal Dietitian at @ibsfodmapdietitian on Instagram
There has been an increased focus on gut health over the last few years and 2021 will be no exception! The research in gut health is strengthening each year, and we now know there is a strong link between our gut health and immune system, mental health and physical health.
Here I discuss my top 5 tips to kick-start your gut health for 2021!
1. Ditch the restrictive diets
Okay, hear me out – some diets are medically necessary, I know this more than anyone as a Dietitian working in the IBS space. However, diets such as the low FODMAP diet are diagnostic tools and should only be followed short term to determine your food triggers.
In terms of weight loss diets, are you sick of the restrictive diet cycle with each new year? This year I encourage you to try something different by focusing on ADDING plant foods in to your diet rather than cutting out entire food groups.
1. With each meal and snack, ask yourself what fruit, vegetable, nut or wholegrain can I add to this meal
2. Aim to eat 30 different plants per week
Did you know there are trillions of bacteria that line your gut and they all need different plant foods to thrive? Each bacteria has their own unique job from producing hormones, to regulating your appetite and supporting your immune system.
Your first goal is to start by hitting 5 serves of vegetables or salad each day. Once you have conquered this aim for 30 different plants a week! Research shows us that individuals who consume 30 different plant-based foods each week have a more variety of bacteria in their gut.
1. Aim for 3 different colours at every main meal
2. Add a sprinkle of nuts and seeds to your next salad
3. Use herbs and spices in cooking
3. Mindful chewing
This might be surprising, but HOW we eat is also really important for our gut health. Chewing is one of the most important mechanisms for digestion, and not chewing enough is a common trigger for bloating!
1. Remove all distractions at meal times (turn off the TV and put the phone down!)
2. Aim to chew each mouthful at least 20 chews per bite
3. Put your knife and fork down between each mouthful and wait 30 seconds after you swallow before putting the next mouthful in
A PREbiotic should not be mistaken for a PRObiotic – prebiotics are types of fibre that feed the friendly bacteria in your gut.
Prebiotics are often high-FODMAP and can trigger gut symptoms in many people. My advice would be to start small and increase in small amounts. If you are currently in the elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet, this may not be a priority right now so focus on getting through your food challenges.
- Garlic, onion, leek, asparagus, barley, cashews and black beans
- Once you know you have pinpointed your food triggers, aim to include 1 prebiotic food daily and increase as tolerated
5. See a Dietitian
If you are struggling with making a plan to improve your gut health in 2021 OR with excessive bloating, pain, diarrhea or constipation – book in with a gut health dietitian to help make a personalised plan for you!
Crystal is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and a Monash University certified FODMAP Dietitian. She has dedicated her career to helping people manage their IBS and other digestive disorders. As an IBS-sufferer herself, Crystal understands the struggles of living with digestive issues and food intolerances. She is passionate about helping people pinpoint their food triggers, manage their IBS and improve their long-term gut health. You can find her on Instagram at @ibsfodmapdietitian.