How to Improve Your Gut Health

Is gut health important?

Our gut bacteria, its population, size and diversity does have an influence on our overall health.

Fibre feeds your gut microbiome, which stimulates fermentation and the production of short chain fatty acids which have benefits such as:

  • Stabilising blood glucose levels.
  • Reducing levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Improved immunity.

FACT – The gut houses 70% of your immune system.

Fibre and a more diverse gut microbiome also:

  • Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, some cancers, infectious diseases and respiratory disease.
  • Reduces the risk of type2 diabetes.
  • Helps prevent constipation.
  • Keeps you fuller for longer!
  • Improves your mental and brain health – There is a clear link between the gut and brain (the gut-brain axis). Adequate fibre intake improves the activity of the gut microbiome producing neuroprotective by-products such as B vitamins and short-chain fatty acids from the fermentation of fibre.


FACT – 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gut by your gut microbes.

BONUS – If you’re eating lots of different fruits, vegetables, nut, seeds etc  you’ll also be getting a great balance of vitamins, minerals and polyphenols (natural antioxidants).

What is gut microbiota?

The microbiota is a set of micro-organisms found in the body. The microbiota in the intestinal tract are referred to as the gut microbiota. Approximately 100 trillion micro-organisms (most of them bacteria, but also viruses, fungi, and protozoa) exist in the human gastrointestinal tract. The microbiome produce thousands of metabolites which influence the host’s fitness and health.

How do I know if I have good gut health?

There’s not a conclusive answer here but your poo is a good place to start. Are you constipated? diarrhoea? excessive gas? bloating etc?

Also, look at your diet – do you eat a diverse amount of vegetables, fruits, whole grains etc?

If you do have a low fibre diet and gut symptoms, you may need to improve your gut health.

NOTEPoor gut health and associated symptoms can be indicative of other issues and serious diseases, so always seek advise from your GP – don’t self diagnose. Any bleeding or persistent change is bowel habits needs immediate attention from a GP, not a nutritionist!

Do I need tests?

There are stools tests available which will analyse your gut bacteria, inflammation etc – these are rarely necessary (unless requested by a GP for inflammation, occult markers, bacteria etc) and are expensive if done privately.

Also, if you are offered tests such as IgG, York test, hair analysis or kinesiology, I’m sorry to say that there is no reliable evidence to show that these work and again they are costly and may lead to you unnecessarily cutting out foods that you don’t actually need to.

How do I improve my gut health?

Firstly, if you have a specific gut issue i.e. constipation or loose stools etc, you may benefit from working with a healthcare professional as the advise will be tailored to your specific symptoms.

However, for general gut health improvements there are things we can all do:

NOTE – If you rarely eat much fibre, increase the amount slowly over a couple of weeks as a sudden increase can cause an upset stomach. Also if you have IBS or IBD please follow advice from your healthcare advisor as you may need to follow a different diet.

  • Eat ideally 7-10 (but 5 is a good place to start) portions of vegetables and fruit per day (aim for a good mix of veg and fruit).


  • Diversity is best. So try to eat a variety of different types of plant based foods. If this feels difficult, start by adding one new plant based food to your weekly shop. Studies show that people who eat 25-30 different plant based foods a week have a more diverse gut bacteria than people who eat less than 10.


  • Switch refined carbs to wholegrain. White pasta for wholegrain pasta, white rice for brown rice, white bread for wholegrain etc


  • Increase other whole grains – oats, quinoa, brown rice, granary, seeded bread, teff, spelt, black rice etc – great for gut health but also host to lots of nutrients such as zinc, b vitamins, iron, copper and magnesium.


  • Don’t cut foods out!. There is a trend towards cutting carbs especially bread but this can do our gut bacteria more harm than good. Choosing high fibre breads can make us healthier and maybe even happier!! Look for wholemeal, granary, multi seed wholemeal, rye, buckwheat etc.


  • Use herbs and spices – they add variety for your gut microbes.


  • Love Legumes –  kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, cannellini, lentils etc are great for gut heath and taste delicious added to soups, stews, curry’s, chilli, dahl, salads etc.


  • Add probiotic rich foods to your diet -such as kefir, kimchi, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut, pickled vegetables.


  • Add prebiotic foods to your diet – these foods feed the good bacteria. Onions, garlic, leeks, bananas, asparagus, artichokes, olives, oats and bran are all good sources.


  • Chew your food properly! Sometimes bloating and gas occurs just because we have eaten a meal too fast, or that we haven’t chewed enough before swallowing – pasta is sometimes a culprit as its easy to swallow without chewing it. People then fear they are intolerant to pasta but they just need to chew more!


  • Make sure you’re relaxed and not eating on the go if you can. Again, this helps to reduce bloating and aids digestion.


  • Reduce alcohol levels. Too much alcohol can inhibit digestive enzymes and subsequently you won’t digest and absorb your food as well.


  • Sleep Well – Good quality sleep is important to your gut – this is where your gut rests, recovers and rebuilds.
    • Have a bed time routine.
    • Limit screen time before bed.
    • Dim the lights and wind down before sleep.
    • Avoid stimulants before bed etc.


  • Reduce Stress – Stress can really impact gut health. Our gut and brain have a two way communication process  – one affects the other. A low fibre diet and poor gut health can affect the brain and our mental health. On the flip side stress, anxiety etc can also affect the gut. When you’re anxious or stressed the sympathetic nervous system can activate ‘fight or flight’ mode shutting down digestion. Finding ways to reduce stress can really help
    • Breath work.
    • Meditation.
    • Exercise.
    • Yoga.
    • Walking.
    • Spending time outdoors.
    • Self care – bathe, read, nap, sing, dance, stroll, paint nails, massage etc.
    • Have a laugh with a friend etc.


  • Increase Movement – Any movement, even walking and stretching can help relive symptoms of bloating and constipation. When the microbes in your gut ferment fibre, one of the the short chain fatty acids produced is Butyrate (as well as many others). Butyrate helps support your immune system and keeps the gut lining healthy. Research shows that just 5 weeks of exercise increased the number of microbes producing Butyrate.


Do I need supplements?

Studies show that probiotic supplements mainly work when there is a genuine issue with your gut i.e. during or after antibiotic use, following a stomach bug or the treatment of gut disorders.

Symprove, Vivomixx/VSL3, Bio-Kult are well researched brands that I would recommend, but do speak to a heath care professional first as different strains of bacteria have different effects on health and disease. This isn’t a supplement you need to take on an on-going basis and probably don’t need to take one at all. Eating probiotic & prebiotic foods can increase the amount of friendly bacteria through your diet without the use of supplements.

Get in touch today to see how I can help improve your own gut health.