Mums - Love your guts!

This blog combines my two favourite topics – nutrition for Mums and gut health.  Hurrah!

 There are so many ways these two things are linked, I have picked out a few of them:

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As you can see there are many links specific to mums that mean looking after our gut needs to take some consideration. 

 The best ways to do this are to ensure you are eating well and drinking plenty of water to ensure regular bowel movements and to minimise discomfort and bloating.

 

Gut Facts

Our gut is up to 9 meters long, contains 70% of our immune cells and millions of microbes.  These microbes help digest our food, as well as regulate our immune system, make hormones and communicate with our brain.  The body of research into these little guys is ever growing and what we know so far tells us that is worth looking after them!

There are many factors that influence which bacteria we have in our gut including how our mothers gave birth to us (vaginal births transfer beneficial bacteria), breastfeeding, geography, drugs, ageing, disease and exercise. 

What we can do to influence them is choose foods containing plenty of fibre, plus prebiotics (these are substrates that feed the gut bacteria) and probiotics (to add extra beneficial bacteria).

 

PROBIOTICS

Evidence on which probiotic to drink or take in pill form is not very conclusive and therefore no specific advice can be given with regards to probiotics.  However, we do know that if you consume them in adequate amounts then they can provide some benefits for some people.  It is still rather trial and error which one may help you, but in general they can do no harm, so they are always worth a try.  We recommend taking them daily for 4 weeks and if you feel a benefit you must continue taking them for the benefit to continue also.

 

If you want to drink kombucha or kefir, these may give you a boost of friendly bacteria, but you won’t be able to know specifically which bacteria and how many are in the drink you are consuming and shelf life will effect this too. 

 FIBRE AND PREBIOTICS

When it comes to fibre and prebiotics the evidence is clearer and this is where you really want to invest your time and money!

  • Aim for 30g fibre per day (see table for what this looks like) – choose whole grains, eat meals containing beans and pulses, choose a variety of different grains so that you are eating different types of fibre.

  • Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day

  • Foods high in prebiotics include artichokes, garlic, leeks, onions, wheat, rye and asparagus.  Pectin in apples, apricots, carrots, oranges.  Resistant starch from grains, barley, rice, beans, green bananas, legumes and potatoes that have been cooked and then cooled.

  • Include nuts and seeds in your diet

  • Increase your fibre and prebiotic intake gradually, to help avoid unwanted systems of wind and bloating.

     

WHAT ELSE?

You should also know that poo samples are not yet a diagnostic tool for understanding your gut bacteria, so don’t waste your money.

 

Other factors that affect our guts are:

  • Stress

  • Water

  • Activity

  • Antibiotics

  • Disinfectants/cleaning products

 

WHEN TO SEEK HELP

It is important to highlight that if you suffer from any of the following gut symptoms to monitor it and seek help if they don’t resolve within 6 months:

  • Pain, wind, bloating, cramps

  • Indigestion

  • Heart burn

  • Constipation and/or diarrhoea

 

Don’t cut out gluten or any food groups without a diagnosis from your GP

 

Seek immediate help if you suffer:

  • Blood in stools

  • Unplanned weight loss

  • Worsening heartburn, indigestion or stomach pain

  • Sudden and persistent change in bowel habit

  • Difficulty swallowing