Don't Neglect Your Gut
Ever wonder how the food you eat affects the wondrous quality of your intestinal tract? Yeah, me neither. But now more than ever, gut health is in the spotlight. And it is important that we understand how we balance what goes into our gut, especially when living a vegan lifestyle. Essentially, how do we give our digestive system that little helping hand?

So why all the fuss?

Nearly all of the friendly bacteria in your body are located in your gut. If you neglect your gut, this can cause niggling issues not just with digestion but other areas of wellbeing. Imbalances in the right bacteria in your gut can affect sleep patterns, causing insomnia (let’s be honest, no one wants to be awake watching Diagnosis Murder reruns at 3am) and a host of other difficulties.

A complex study recently completed showed that an unhealthy gut could lead to arthritis and affect your mental state! So yes, this needs addressing and thankfully, there are a variety of simple things you can do. Encouraging your gut to work for you means you’ll be on the best track.

Probiotics rule!

Many people think that probiotics can only be found in special, dairy rich products. This, we hasten to add, is not the case. There are many vegan food groups that contain high levels of probiotics. Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) is a brilliant alternative to lactose infused products. Miso soup is also great for reinforcing your gut flora. And the best part is that you can easily make a batch in a matter of seconds. Most of the specialized dairy products that contain probiotics are wallet crunching in terms of expense. Going with vegan alternatives is not only ethically sound, but it will save you heaps!

But prebiotics deliver the real fuel!

The story doesn’t end there guys. Probiotics are nothing without their prebiotic cousins. Put simply, probiotics need food in order to function properly. You need a fairly equal amount of prebiotics and probiotics to ease the pressure on your gut. This is where it gets good for vegans. The following vegan staples contain high levels of prebiotics:
  • Bananas
  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Garlic
  • Wheat Bran
  • Wheat flour
The key thing to remember is this – you have two options when it comes to prebiotics. You can choose to simply eat the foods listed above BUT to get the full benefit, you have to eat them raw. Cooking any of the foods will break down the prebiotics. Not a problem with bananas, but a smidge more challenging with raw garlic. Little tip though, if you remove the green part of the garlic, then you won’t smell like a wannabe Van Helsing.

You can buy certain prepared prebiotics but they are insanely expensive. Buying fresh produce is the best way to go – you’re supporting farmers in the process and it will most definitely not bankrupt you!

Timing is everything!

Your body clock has a huge bearing on when your gut is firing on all cylinders. Breakfast is best served soft (excluding cereal, we’ve yet to meet a person who likes soggy cereal) so fresh fruit is the name of the game. In the morning, your gut is only just awake so it shouldn't work too hard just yet. Eating hard or fibrous foods in the morning can lead to cramps. Stick with bananas, berries or even a smoothie with almond or soy milk.

Moving further through your highly productive day, from lunchtime to around 8pm is the peak performance time for your gut. This is the time you can eat fiber-rich foods, allowing your gut to get started early on digesting. Think grains, beets, and legumes. We would say that after 7pm you should be winding down to slightly softer veggies.

At around 8pm your gut will start to recline, as you should be. Ideally, we’d avoid eating anything substantial after 8pm. This is because your gut is effectively getting ready to hit the sack. Gut rest is just as important as feeding it the good stuff.

Above all hydration is integral to good gut health. Caffeine is your enemy in this situation as it affects digestion in not very pleasant ways. Switch to green tea or a decaffeinated product.

Ultimately, you can’t go wrong with good old H2O! Trust us, your gut will thank you.

Let’s round up

The most important thing to remember is that your gut needs just as much self-care as any other part of your body. As gut health affects so many other aspects of general health, it makes sense to make it a priority. Being kind to your gut means that it will repay you in kind.