The gut (or intestine) is an amazing and hard-working part of the human body. Not only does it break down food, absorb nutrients and water, and store waste, but it is also home to billions of bacteria that play an essential role in maintaining your overall health.1
There’s a lot that can go wrong with your gut, but two of the more common gut problems we have all encountered include constipation (when you have trouble emptying your bowel) and diarrhoea (when you have loose, watery stools).2,3
How do you know if your gut is working like it should? Anything from one to two bowel movements per day, to one every three or four days, is considered normal.4 If you are worried about your bowel function, or troubled by unusual symptoms, you should see your doctor.
Some tips for maintaining a healthy gut include:
- Eat a range of different fibre-rich foods. For example, fruits, vegetables, brown rice, rye bread, and chickpeas contain 3 different types of dietary fibre that have different beneficial effects on your gut: insoluble fibre to help to keep you regular, soluble fibre to slow down digestion and help you feel full for longer, and resistant starch to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria.4 The more variety in your diet, the better off you’ll be!
- Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is a common cause of constipation while diarrhoea can cause dehydration (as a result of losing more fluids than normal). Aim for 6 to 8 glasses of water a day.4
- Feed your healthy gut bacteria. Try adding some fermented foods to your diet. Good examples include natural yoghurt, sauerkraut, kombucha (a type of fermented tea) and kimchi.1
- Robertson R. 10 ways to improve your gut bacteria, based on science. Nov 18, 2016. Available from: www.healthline.com/nutrition/improve-gut-bacteria#section11 (accessed September 2018).
- Healthdirect. Constipation. Available at: www.healthdirect.gov.au/constipation (accessed September 2018).
- Healthdirect. Diarrhoea. Available at: www.healthdirect.gov.au/diarrhoea (accessed September 2018).
4. Go Grains Health & Nutrition. Are you eating right for your digestive health? Available at: www.gutfoundation.com.au/Dietary_Advice (accessed September 2018).