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The Best Foods For Gut Health

Poor gut health can lead to a myriad of unpleasant symptoms: bloating, gas, diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and more. If not treated, these symptoms can progress into systemic issues such as food sensitivities, skin disorders, hormonal imbalances, or even autoimmune diseases such as coeliac disease.

You’ve probably heard that a healthy, high-fibre diet is vital for maintaining good digestion and regular bowel movements. But did you know that certain foods can actually improve your gut health?

Here are some of the best (and most delicious) foods for improving gut health. You can even make them at home!

Bone broth

Bone broth is one of the most nourishing foods for an inflamed gut. Bone broth is made by boiling and simmering animal bones over several days. This allows the bones and connective tissues to release nourishing compounds into the broth, such as collagen, proline, glycine and glutamine. And because we humans are made of the same ‘stuff’ as animals, these compounds are exactly what our bodies need to heal.

Bone broth is especially rich in glutamine, which is an important amino acid involved in restoring damaged intestinal cells. It’s also an excellent source of minerals, including calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, magnesium, and much more.

The gelatin in bone broth is also highly beneficial for restoring the integrity of the gut lining, and also for supporting a healthy gut microbiome, and maintaining proper balance of gut bacteria.

You can make your own bone broth by boiling bones into a large stockpot. There are lots of recipes online! 

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut’s gut-healing benefits begin with its fibre content. It’s an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fibre, which are both very useful for bowel regularity. Insoluble fibre is helpful for adding ‘bulk’ to your stools, while soluble fibre is a prebiotic that ‘feeds’ the healthy bacteria in your gut.  

Sauerkraut juice is rich in sulforaphane, an antioxidant that can inhibit H. pylori. Cabbage also contains powerful phytochemicals that soothe gut inflammation. 

Sauerkraut is made with a special fermentation process that allows beneficial microorganisms to develop. These microorganisms are then delivered to your gut like a natural probiotic. It’s particularly rich in Lactobacillus plantarum, which has been shown to help improve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This and other strains of bacteria in sauerkraut also help with digestion and bowel transit time. Better bowel transit time means less irritation and gas!  

It’s fairly simple to make your own sauerkraut but it’s readily available in most supermarkets, too. Be sure to choose organic, not the pasteurized canned version! 

Kefir

Kefir is another powerful gut-healing food that originates in Europe. It’s a type of fermented milk created with special starter grains. These grains are a combination of bacteria and yeast that break down the proteins in the milk to make a nutritious beverage.  And because the lactose has been broken down, even those who are lactose intolerant can drink it! 

Kefir’s complex ecology of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts can help to reduce dysbiosis and gut inflammation. It’s been shown to help rebalance the colonies of friendly bacteria in the gut, which makes it particularly helpful after a course of antibiotics.

Kefir can be made with milk, water, or coconut grains. It has a thick consistency and a pleasant smell. 

Fatty fish

Sardines, salmon, herring, mackerel, and anchovies are a rich source of protein and important long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. These omega-3 acids harbour powerful anti-inflammatory properties that can help to heal damaged gut tissues. 

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have been found to reduce the inflammatory responses in the gut. Research has shown that these fatty acids can reduce both oxidative stress and the production of proinflammatory cytokines. 

Taking omega-3 along with probiotics and a fibre-rich diet can also improve the diversity of the gut microbiome. Specific bacteria are linked to lower inflammation in people who have a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Eating oily fish can help boost levels of omega-3 in the blood, which in turn increases a compound called N-carbamylglutamate (NCG). This compound has been found to reduce oxidative stress in the gut. 

Oily fish are readily available in supermarkets and fish markets! Try to eat 2-3 servings each week. 

Yoghurt

Yoghurt is one of the best-known probiotic foods on earth, and also one of the most readily available. Technically speaking, yoghurt is milk fermented by bacterial strains Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. 

Numerous studies have proven yoghurt’s benefits for gut health. These are mostly related to improving microflora and bowel transit time. It’s even been shown to enhance the innate and adaptive immune responses of the gastrointestinal system.

The trick to choosing a ‘beneficial’ yoghurt is to avoid the ones with added sugars and flavours. These may taste great, but they won’t help your gut! Choose only natural, unsweetened yoghurts with no added ingredients. 

What next?

If all this makes you feel overwhelmed, just reach out to me for help. I can help you find a way to include these foods for gut health in your every day life. As well as being a Nutritionist and Naturopath, I am also a Food Scientist, and I can help you make sense of all this! Get in touch today.

The Leaky Gut Diet Plan

As explained in my previous post, Leaky Gut Syndrome occurs when the cells that line your small intestine become loose. This allows toxins, pathogens, and undigested food particles to pass through your gut lining and into your bloodstream, where they cause an inflammatory response. 

Healing Leaky Gut requires a multi-faceted approach.

In other words – we have to attack it from several different angles, not just one.

This is because Leaky Gut is often linked to other digestive issues and lifestyle factors, and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution. 

Here’s a brief overview of what a treatment plan from me might look like. 

1. Remove irritants/allergies

Identifying what causes your body to react is the first step in your recovery. This involves us sitting down and examining exactly what you are eating every day, and the symptoms you experience after certain foods. 

Sugar, alcohol, food additives, wheat, and dairy are the most common causes of inflammation and intestinal damage. These foods can also worsen any microbial imbalances in the gut, which can promote further dysbiosis or intolerances. 

The best way to really pinpoint any potential allergies or sensitivities is with an elimination diet.

Although an elimination diet may take several weeks to identify the foods you’re reacting to, it is often referred to as the ‘gold standard’ of testing.

The diet involves removing one food for two weeks, then reintroducing it as a ‘challenge’. We observe your reaction to the food and make notes of your symptoms both before and after the challenge. An allergy test can then provide a definitive diagnosis.

NOTE: An elimination diet may lead to some slightly unpleasant symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, or food cravings. This is all part of the healing process, and symptoms usually disappear after a few days. 

2. Restore nutrient deficiencies 

Those with Leaky Gut often have deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals due to their inability to absorb nutrients properly. 

Replenishing your body’s nutrient stores is crucial for ensuring you can function properly every day. The tiny fibers (microvilli) that line your intestines are often so damaged that they cannot rebuild themselves properly, so you need to provide your body with nutrients that assist with cell rebuilding and renewal. 

As your Naturopath & Nutritionist, I create a comprehensive diet plan designed specifically to your needs. This includes plenty of whole foods, healthy fats, and lean protein. I choose foods that provide the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes your body needs to repair damage and rebuild healthy tissue. Some examples include oily fish, leafy greens, brightly-coloured fruits, certain herbs, nuts, and organ meats. 

Supplements can also help to provide a more concentrated and convenient dose of the nutrients you need. I will assist in prescribing or recommending a product that addresses your unique needs. 

3. Rebalance gut bacteria

Once we’ve healed the lining of your gut, we need to restore the balance of healthy gut bacteria. These flora are vital for the proper functioning of your immune system, healthy digestion, nutrient absorption, and many other roles 

A high-potency probiotic supplement can help to rejuvenate the bacterial populations of your gut. Look for a product that provides some form of protection against stomach acid (such as enteric coating) which will help ensure its passage through the harsh conditions of the stomach. 

A prebiotic is also recommended for providing ‘fuel’ to your gut bacteria. Prebiotics are types of dietary fiber that cannot be broken down, so they are fermented by your probiotic bacteria. 

This helps your body to produce nutrients for your colon cells.

Fermented foods are rich in both prebiotics and probiotics. These include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, and kombucha. They can help reduce inflammation, improve blood sugar control, and provide important antioxidants. 

4. Boost digestion

A little digestive support can go a long way in improving both your gut lining and your nutritional status. This is especially important for treating Leaky Gut because your body will need all the help it can get to utilize nutrients. 

Digestive enzymes and bitters are a great way to assist in the breakdown of food you eat. Most digestive enzyme supplements include the main enzymes:

  • Lipase (for digesting fats)
  • Amylase (for converting starches into sugars)
  • Lactase (for breaking down milk sugar)
  • Cellulase (for digesting fruits and vegetables)
  • Betaine HCL (for restoring normal gastric acidity)

Herbal bitters are also helpful for healthy digestive function. Bitters are a kind of tonic made up of bitter-tasting herbs that stimulate the flow of digestive juices from the pancreas, duodenum and liver.

When used together, digestive enzymes and bitters can help to reduce irritation and inflammation in the gut. When food is properly broken down, there is less of a chance that undigested particles can escape into your bloodstream and cause further inflammation. 

What’s next?

A personalised treatment plan is the most effective way to identify, treat, and heal your Leaky Gut issues. If you’re ready to address your allergies, sensitivities, and digestive problems, get in touch with me! 

Why investing in gut testing is a good idea

If you’ve ever suffered from gas and bloating, or you constantly feel run-down and unhappy, it could be a sign that all is not well in your gut.

And one of the best ways to know for sure is with a gut test!

There are many gut microbiome testing companies now offering to solve your problems with a gut test. I’ll explain how this works, and how the right test can be a worthy investment. But first, let’s look at why a healthy gut is so important. 

Why your gut health matters

You probably know that your gut bacteria are important for proper digestion. But what happens in your gut is much more complex than breaking down food.

In the past few decades, studies have shown that gut microbes have a massive influence on your overall health. The tens of trillions of microorganisms living in your body include at least 1,000 species of bacteria and over three million genes! In fact, your body is home to more bacterial cells than human cells. 

That’s why many of your bodily functions depend on the delicate balance of your gut microbiome. 

Not surprisingly, an imbalance of good and bad bacteria can have a serious impact on your health. Poor gut health has been linked to everything from inflammatory bowel conditions to anxiety.

What does your gut microbiome do?

Here’s a quick rundown of how your ‘good bugs’ work…

  • They digest and absorb food
    Your gut bacteria break down carbohydrates into glucose, a form of sugar that your body uses as fuel. Many of the carbohydrates in plants are also used to produce certain enzymes, which are then fermented and converted into short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate. Butyrate is a vital energy source for the cells lining your intestines. It also controls the proliferation of cells in the intestine and some research has even suggested it may harbour anti-carcinogenic properties.
  • They maintain your immune system
    When you’re exposed to harmful pathogens and viruses, it’s your “good” gut bacteria that work to fight them off. These tiny microorganisms are your main defence system from the toxins and diseases. Bacteria can actually elicit an effective immune response against viruses that not only infect the gut (such as rotavirus) but also those affecting the lungs, such as the flu virus.
  • They produce your energy
    Much of your daily energy comes from your gut! In fact, your body’s cells are constantly creating energy. Within each cell is a tiny ‘powerhouse’ called the mitochondria. These rely on the nutrients that your gut bacteria break down.
    By digesting and absorbing nutrients from the foods you eat, these bacteria produce the important metabolites and fuel that allows your body to function.
  • They maintain healthy mood
    Scientists now know that there’s an intimate link between the brain and the gut, which has been termed the ‘gut-brain axis’. Your gut is acutely responsive to shifts in your emotions and mental states. This is a two-way street:  your brain and emotions are also sensitive to what’s going on in your intestines. 


BUT – an overgrowth of bad bacteria (known as dysbiosis) will mean none of these things can happen as they should. 

The result? Along with various digestion symptoms, you’ll feel tired, you’ll be more susceptible to infections, and you may even be depressed. 

That’s why a gut test is so important. 

Signs that you should get your gut tested

  • Digestive issues: bloating, gas, acid reflux, indigestion, heartburn, diarrhoea and/or constipation. 
  • Sugar cravings
  • Bad breath
  • Food allergies or sensitivities
  • Skin problems such as eczema or psoriasis 
  • Low mood, depression, anxiety

What is a gut test?

A gut test analyses the composition of the microbiome in the gut. This analysis shows how many different bacteria are present by analysing their DNA (sequencing). It can also show other markers of gut health, such as inflammation.

Your results can provide:

  • An analysis of the microorganisms in your gut
  • An explanation of your microbe profile, metabolism, nutrition utility, lifestyle status, and gut type
  • A profile of the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacterial strains 

Why get your gut microbiome tested?

Research has shown that a gut microbiome test can provide some vital insight into your health – both short-term and long-term.  

A gut test can provide a comprehensive picture of your own microbiome. From there, you can begin to understand what might be causing your symptoms. 

Analysing the gut microbiome has been found to help diagnose and treat certain conditions. It may even be used to prevent some health issues from developing or from getting worse. 

By working with me, you will be able to understand your gut in greater detail and take control of your health. 

I will create a treatment plan that helps you to manage the levels of bacteria in your gut.

I provide you with custom dietary suggestions to implement based on your unique microbiome and related health issues. This may involve dietary changes, lifestyle recommendations, and/or supplements such as probiotics. 

A personalised treatment plan based on your gut health can have you feeling better than ever before. Contact me today to discuss the best gut health test for you. 

Is it IBS or SIBO?

Bloating, cramping, gas, diarrhoea. Sounds like classic IBS. 

…or could it be something more?

Nearly one in three people put up with the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) every day. IBS is one of the most common digestive disorders in the world and accounts for nearly half of all visits to gastroenterologists. 

But recent research suggests that what many people think of as “just IBS” may, in fact, be SIBO: small intestine bacterial overgrowth. Recent research has shown that SIBO is much more common than previously thought. 

Here’s why identifying SIBO can make all the difference to your recovery. 

SIBO vs IBS: What’s the difference?

First things first: Irritable bowel syndrome isn’t actually a condition in itself. It’s an umbrella term for a range of gastrointestinal symptoms, such as: 

  • Abdominal pain, cramps, and spasms
  • Bowel motility issues (diarrhoea, constipation, or both)
  • Bloating, gas
  • General digestive discomfort

While symptoms may be a result of many different factors, it’s now known that the main cause is often SIBO. Studies suggest that up to 78% of patients with IBS have SIBO

What is SIBO?

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is exactly as it sounds: an excess of bacteria in your small intestine. 

Now, your whole gastrointestinal tract is home to varying amounts of bacteria, but your small bowel is meant to contain much less: only around 10,000 bacteria per millilitre of fluid. Your large bowel, on the other hand, contains at least 1,000,000,000 bacteria per millilitre of fluid. Patients with SIBO are shown to have an increase in bacteria equal to or greater than 100,000 per mL of fluid. These bacteria are also often the types that would normally be in the colon.

The symptoms of SIBO are generally the same as IBS, which is partly why it is so often missed. Other symptoms can include bloating and abdominal distension after eating, food intolerances and sensitivities, nutrient deficiencies (usually vitamin B12 and iron), weight loss, fatigue, brain fog, and even fibromyalgia.

Why is SIBO a problem?

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth can damage the cells lining your small bowel. Over time, this damage can lead to increased intestinal permeability (known as Leaky Gut Syndrome) which then allows large protein molecules to pass through the gut lining into your bloodstream. This is a major causative factor in immune reactions linked to food allergies or sensitivities, autoimmune diseases, and chronic inflammation. It also impairs your body’s ability to digest food and absorb nutrients.

Identifying and treating SIBO should be a priority. If untreated, it can lead to chronic malabsorption, diarrhoea, unintentional weight loss, nutritional deficiencies, and osteoporosis. 

How is SIBO treated?

Unfortunately, most doctors usually still prescribe antibiotics to treat SIBO – even though there’s plenty of evidence to show that antibiotics kill off both healthy AND unhealthy bacteria. This can severely hinder your body’s ability to recover. In fact, recurrence rates of SIBO are around 43.7% in the nine months after antibiotics!

The key in treating SIBO is to address the cause of the excess bacteria in your small intestines, not just the symptoms you are experiencing. Treatment involves a comprehensive consultation in which I examine every aspect of your health history, diet, and lifestyle.

There can be many reasons your intestinal bacteria have grown out of control. Certain foods, medications, alcohol intake, environmental influences, lifestyle factors (stress, lack of exercise) can all contribute to poor gut microbiome. Everyone is different, and it’s only through identifying the unique factors that have caused your SIBO that we can begin to make healthy changes. 

What is the SIBO diet?

Dietary protocols for treating SIBO generally involve avoiding foods that ‘feed’ the bacterial overgrowth in your small intestine. Instead, the aim is to eat foods that are easier for your body to digest and absorb. 

Depending on your needs, your SIBO treatment plan may include the Low-FODMAP diet, the Specific Carbohydrate diet (SCD), the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet, and Low Starch diet. 

What about SIBO probiotics?

Given that SIBO antibiotics have been shown to do more harm than good, treatment for SIBO is now more focused on restoring the microbial balance of the small intestine. Recent studies have shown that certain strains of probiotics can help to do this. 

Of course, not just any old probiotic off the shelf will do! I use only practitioner-grade probiotic brands that contain the strains most effective in treating gut dysbiosis. 

Where necessary, my treatment protocol may also include a specific SIBO herbal treatment to help eliminate pathogenic bacteria and yeast overgrowth in the gut. 

How to test for SIBO

Diagnosis is best done with a SIBO breath test, which I organise through my clinic. This simple breath sample determines the presence of methanogenic or hydrogenic bacteria, which then allows me to design your personalised treatment plan. If you think SIBO may be the cause of your IBS or other digestive issues, don’t put up with it! Contact me here

Why Does My Child Have Eczema? Simple Tips For Natural Eczema Relief

Eczema is one of the most common childhood conditions, with one in five infants being diagnosed. Although it might seem like a simple skin irritation, eczema is a sign that there is something going on below the surface.

The good news? There are simple ways you can address your child’s eczema naturally.

What is eczema?

Eczema is a skin condition that causes a red and itchy rash on the skin. There are several types of eczema, but children commonly experience atopic (allergic) eczema.

Although the symptoms occur on the skin, eczema is not a surface condition. It is an indication that there are internal issues leading to allergic symptoms on the skin.

If you seek advice from your GP, they will usually offer a topical steroid cream to relieve the symptoms. But this does not address the underlying issues – in some cases, it could even make symptoms worse in the long term.

Risk factors for eczema

There are several factors that can increase your child’s risk of eczema, including:

  • Allergic conditions such as a food allergy
  • A family history of eczema
  • A family history of other allergic conditions such as allergies, asthma, and hayfever
  • Living in a colder climate
  • Exposure to pollution, allergens and tobacco smoke

Studies suggest that boys are more likely to experience eczema in infancy, but girls are more likely to have eczema in adolescence.

There is a strong genetic link to eczema. But genes alone won’t cause eczema – there also needs to be an immune system that is triggered by something your child is exposed to.

The link between gut health and eczema

There are two major components of eczema – an immune system that is prone to overreacting and a trigger that causes that reaction.

The trigger varies from child to child – it could be dietary, environmental or a combination of different factors. But when it comes to a sensitive immune system, the first place we always look to is the gut. This is because the gut and immune system are closely linked. In fact, most of the ‘immune system’ is located in the gut!

Research confirms that gut health plays an important role in eczema. People with eczema have a different balance of gut microbes compared to those without eczema. There is also evidence that increased intestinal permeability (commonly known as leaky gut) occurs in children with eczema.

Another gut-related issue that contributes to eczema is food allergies and intolerances. Research suggests that 1/3rd of children with eczema have one or more food allergies – and this could be even higher once you include intolerances.

How can I manage my child’s eczema?

Looking for ways to alleviate your child’s eczema naturally? There are a few key steps you can take.

Address gut health

If we want to take a holistic approach and tackle the underlying causes of eczema, we have to work on gut health.

My #1 tip for supporting a healthy gut is to feed your child a diet rich in wholefoods, including 5 serves of veggies every day. The fibre in vegetables feeds the good bacteria in the gut, leading to a healthier happier tummy.

Navigating gut health can be confusing, as so many factors influence it. This is where working with a nutritionist can help you to develop a realistic plan tailored to your child’s needs.

Identify food intolerances

Food intolerances and eczema go hand in hand. As food intolerances can cause inflammation and affect the balance of microbes in the gut, they are a common trigger for eczema flares. That’s why I always look for potential food intolerances when I see clients with eczema.

Depending on the client and their symptoms, I may recommend IgG testing or an elimination diet removing the main dietary suspects. Elimination diets can be tough to tackle with kids, so it’s best to work with a practitioner.

Consider dust mites as a trigger

In my experience, dust mites can be a huge trigger for eczema symptoms. You can go to your GP to get testing for a dust mite allergy.

In the meantime, to reduce dust mites, you can:

  • Wash bedding weekly in hot water
  • If your child sleeps with soft toys, add those to the weekly wash with the bedding
  • Vacuum regularly, including any upholstered furniture
  • Dust using a wet or electrostatic cloth to prevent the allergens from becoming airborne

Use natural topical options for symptom relief

Steroid creams might alleviate the itch, but they come with side effects. That’s why I recommend opting for natural topical relief instead.

Adding a handful of oats into a muslin bag and popping it in the bath is a simple and affordable option for relieving itching. You can also blend the oats into a fine powder and add it directly to the bath. Although it might seem simple, research has shown that oat baths can alleviate symptoms of eczema.

Another good option is chickweed. You can add it into a bath, or make a salve and apply it to the affected area.

What about probiotics for eczema?

Probiotics can be beneficial for eczema. But it’s not just picking up a probiotic from the supermarket or pharmacy. You want to make sure you’re using the right strains and in the right dosage for your child’s needs.

There are several specific strains that have evidence for alleviating eczema symptoms. L. plantarum CJLP133, L. paracaseiL. fermentum, and L. sakei are some of the strains that have been shown to help with eczema. But these strains are not available in the supplements you can buy over the counter.

This is where working with a practitioner can be useful. Get in touch today to start the journey to health with your child.

The GAPS diet

What is the GAPS diet good for?

GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology syndrome or Gut and Physiology syndrome.

GAPS is a healing diet

The diet was developed by a Neurologist called Dr Natasha Campbell McBride.

When her son developed severe autism, she delved into the research to try to understand why he was autistic and how she could help.  From this experience, she developed the GAPS diet.

GAPS is based on another diet called the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) which has been used successfully to treat conditions such as Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis for many years.

The GAPS diet revolves around the fact that poor gut health leads to many chronic health conditions.  In children, this can be issues such as autism, ADHD / ADD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, learning difficulties, epilepsy, digestive disorders, autoimmune disorders, food allergies and eczema.

There are 2 phases in the diet.  There is the Introduction phase of the diet, and the “Full” GAPS diet.

The introduction phase moves through 6 stages, designed to rebuild the integrity of the gut wall, and repopulate the gut with beneficial bacteria.

The focus is on fermented foods, bone stocks and broths, lots of fat, non-starch vegetables and gelatinous meat.

As you would expect on any diet, there are no processed foods or fast foods.

How long it takes to get through the 6 stages depends on how severe your symptoms are to start off with.  It could be anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months.

Once you move through the 6 stages of the introduction diet, you move on to the full GAPS diet.  This will be your eating protocol for about 1.5 to 2 years.  It is more flexible, but the focus is still on whole foods.

Meals are generally eggs, meat, fish and vegetable with lots of broth!

GAPS also has a big focus on detoxing your entire life.  This includes juicing, safe sun exposure, Epsom salt baths, cutting out perfumed and fragranced personal care product, and generally following a healthy lifestyle.

Sounds pretty restrictive?

Yes, there’s no doubt that GAPS is a big departure from the standard Australian diet.  But let’s not forget that the standard Australian diet is making us sick.  Levels of food allergies, autism and auto-immunity have skyrocketed in the last decade.

Why would I do the GAPS diet?

You might look at doing the GAPs diet if you child has a behavioural diagnosis or allergy that conventional medicine can’t help.

Or perhaps you suspect your child has compromised gut health because of antibiotic overuse.

Or maybe you would prefer not to medicate your child.

Autism requires lots of specialist therapies, such as occupational therapy and speech therapy.  The GAPS protocol works alongside these to restore your child gut and help the therapies be more effective.

What happens after the GAPS diet?

Once you or your child have healed enough to come off the diet, you can start the gradual introduction of properly prepared grains and starchy vegetables.  Of course I would never recommend you jump back into the standard Australian diet, as it is not healthy for anyone.  But the good news is that if you have restricted your child’s diet because of food allergies or intolerances, you should be able to reintroduce some of these foods. 

So a couple of years of restrictive eating and intense gut healing will allow a wider range of foods to be eaten long term.

Where do I start?

Deciding to go on the GAPS diet can be overwhelming.

For that reason, you are recommended to speak with a Certified GAPS practitioner, like me.  I offer a 3 month coaching package to hold your hand as you transition your family.  If you are interested in finding out more about GAPS and whether it is right for your family, book in for a free 20 min chat and I can answer any questions you might have.

“GAPS™ and Gut and Psychology Syndrome™ are the trademark and copyright of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.  The right of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Patent and Designs Act 1988”.
How to improve your gut health naturally

How to improve your gut health naturally

Everyone is talking about gut health these days.

But why does gut health matter?

How can you tell if your child has an issue with Gut health?

How do you improve gut health?

Why does gut health matter?

If you gut isn’t working right, your body isn’t working right.

Your child’s brain is part of their body, just like an arm or leg, so if their gut doesn’t work right, their brain won’t work right.

Pretty much most childhood conditions can be linked back to gut health:

  • Skin conditions such as eczema
  • Allergies and intolerances
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Learning or behavioural issues

How can you tell if your child has an issue with gut health?

There are some basic checks and measures you can do to check your child’s gut health.

  1. Visual

Whenever your child does a poop, have a look.  Luckily our little darlings can often forget to flush, giving us ample opportunity to do this.

If it floats, your child might be producing a bit too much gas, which might mean they have an infection or are lactose intolerant.

If the gas causes your child pain or discomfort, this is a sign that their gut health is out of balance.

You shouldn’t be able to see undigested food in the poo.  If you can,

  • They might be eating too fast
  • They might not be chewing enough. This is a common issue when they go to big school and they want to get off to play as soon as possible.
  • They might simply be eating too many hard-to-digest foods, like nuts.
  • They may have some inflammation or not enough stomach acid.
  1. Frequency

Check the number of bowel movements your child has each day.

The ideal number per day is very individual.  The rule of thumb is that most people should be moving their bowels at least once a day.

If it is less than that, increase the number of veggie servings.

  1. Transit time

Feed your child with a noticeably difficult to digest food, like corn or sesame seeds.  Note the time they eat the food, then wait until you see the food reappear.

Transit time should be 12-48 hours.

Longer than that, and the food is sitting up there a bit too long.

Longer than 72 hours is constipation.  Do the test 3 times and get an average.

  1. Bristol stool chart

This is the best way to describe poo formation.  It ranges from 1 (hard nuts) to 7 (diarrhoea).  If your child’s poo is in the 1-2 category or 6-7 category, you may want to take them to a gut specialist, such as a Nutritionist or Naturopath.  Check out the Bristol stool chart.

  1. Symptom score card

Does your child suffer from any of these issues?

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Belching
  • Loose stools
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Undigested food
  • Bad breath
  • Mucus in stools
  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn
  • Chronic food sensitivities.

All these point to suboptimal gut health, which would benefit from gut healing

  1. Look for wrigglers

If you see something wriggling in the poo, your child has worms.

There are natural ways to get rid of worms, without resorting to medication.  These involve using essential oils or garlic.  It is really something you need to do with a Nutritionist or Naturopath, to make sure you don’t kill off good bacteria too.

The important thing is to keep the terrain of the gut healthy (See below, ‘How do I improve gut health’).  This means keeping all the bacteria in balance.  That way, they defend their territory and don’t let invaders like parasites or pathogenic (disease causing bacteria) take over.

  1. Specialised testing

You can do specialised gut testing with your Nutritionist or Naturopath.

This could be a stool analysis, breathe test or urine test and can assess how well your child’s digestive system is working.  It checks if there is anything there that shouldn’t be there, or something missing that should be there.

How do I improve gut health?

  1. Feed the good bacteria in your digestive system!

You do this by eating more fibre and unprocessed foods.

Highly processed foods are very easily digested., which means they’re completed digested early in the digestive process, and there is nothing left to feed the good bacteria in the bowel.

You have to feed the good bacteria with fibre, or they can start to attack the walls of the intestines.  This can trigger allergies and asthma.

Eat more whole foods.  Include lots of fruit, vegetables and nuts in your child’s diet.

  1. Bring in the cavalry

As well as feeding the good bacteria in your child’s gut, you want to boost the number of good guys in the bowel too.

Eating foods that contain bacteria is a good way to do this, including fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, live yoghurt or kvass.  You can make your own or buy in the health food shop.  Just make sure they aren’t pasteurised.

Highly processed yogurt doesn’t have these health benefits (and the ‘yoghurt’ topping on snack bars isn’t yoghurt at all.)

If you know your child doesn’t have enough good bacteria, because they have had antibiotics, or have allergies, they may need a probiotic supplement too.

  1. Eat dirt.

Not literally handfuls of dirt.

Just relax the sterility a bit.

Ditch the hand sanitiser.

Play outside and get dirty.

Do some gardening.

Get a pet.

Be sensible though — wash hands before eating, after blowing nose, or touching something contaminated (like poo, compost, or vomit).  Wash with soap and water, not antibacterial soap.

  1. Avoid medication.

Lots of medications are harmful to your gut, the most well-known being antibiotics.

Don’t get me wrong.  Antibiotics are life savers, but they are for emergencies only.

I have one child who wouldn’t be here today without the existence of antibiotics.

If your child needs antibiotics, start them on a probiotic immediately, but take it 2 hours away from the antibiotic.  This stops the harmful yeasts getting a hold on the gut

Ever taken an antibiotic and gotten thrush straight away?  That’s because yeast has taken over in the absence of good bacteria.

If your child has had multiple courses of antibiotics, they will need a good quality probiotic for the foreseeable future. Other medications are damaging too, including reflux medication, that is designed to reduce stomach acid. Guess what?  We need that stomach acid!  That is one of the body’s first lines of defence again infection.  Remove the acid, and the bad guys (worms, yeast and bacteria) get in a bit easier. Anti-inflammatories and asthma medication can also harm your gut.

5. The migrating motor complex

This is a really important factor which doesn’t get talked about too much.

Basically, the migrating motor complex (MMC) is the electrical activity of the muscle in the gut between meals.  It is responsible for keeping undigested food moving and moving bacteria from the small intestine to the large intestine.

It occurs in cycles, about every 1.5 – 2 hours.  It only works when you are not eating.  That means, if your child grazes continuously throughout the day, the MMC never kicks in.

This can lead to stagnation of undigested food, and over growth of bacteria in the small intestine.  So another important way to keep your child’s gut health is to stick to designated meal times and snack times only.

50 years ago, there were 3 square meals a day.

Now we have somehow moved to about 3 meals, 3 snacks, and possibly even some food in between there somewhere.

A lot of this change is driven by the food industry.

Think about it.

If you have to prepare food from scratch for 6-7 eating occasions per day – will you do it?

But if you can grab something off the shelf, you are much more likely to do it.

More snacking occasions = more food sales.

Some children need so much food, that they need 3 meals and 2 snacks, especially if they are little.  You will find if they are having whole foods with ample fat and fibre, they will get less hungry outside of these times.

Especially in the school holidays, I find myself having to write meal and snack times up on the fridge.  If anyone asks for anything outside of this, tough luck.

I’m only thinking of your migrating motor complex, darling.

  1. Add healing foods

Healing foods are natural foods that will help rebuild your child’s gut lining.

Introduce your child to some healing foods such as

Bone stocks and broths 

Organ meats like my Liver and Bacon recipe

Cold water fish such as salmon.  These are high in essential fatty acids and reduce inflammation in the gut

Cheaper cuts of meat such as Osso Bucco. 

The amino acid glycine is higher in cheaper cuts of meat, making it more healing.  Cook in the slow cooker, kids love the tender meat.

  1. Relax!

Stress and anxiety will play havoc with gut health and similarly, poor gut health will lead to stress and anxiety.

A great place to start with improving this cycle in kids is to have them play outside for 1- 3 hours a day, preferably in natural light to get the vitamin D level topped-up.

Try not to fight over food (says she who says your child must eat 5 veggies a day, fermented foods and less snacking!).

Try to model good food choices, don’t make veggies out to be punishment, or less appealing (‘you can’t have dessert unless you eat the broccoli’ is setting broccoli up as not appealing).

  1. Avoid irritating foods

For a lot of people, foods such as grains, legumes, dairy, processed foods or sugar may cause gut irritation.  Your child may have a food intolerance to a random food.

By identifying and excluding irritating foods for 6 months and working on gut healing, you may be able to reintroduce some of these foods later.

I hope you find this useful and it helps to put into perspective why you need to think about gut health in relation to you child.

If you think your child might need to improve their gut health, click here to arrange a FREE 20 minute PHONE HEALTH CHECK.