Some simple ways to improve your gut health
In part one of this three-part series, we looked at the role our gut plays in maintaining a healthy body and its relationship to multiple sclerosis (MS). In part two we look at some relatively simple ways in which we can improve our gut health.
Making changes to improve the health of our gut may seem complicated, but it needn’t be. The good news is that we can make a positive difference in our gut health by implementing a few dietary and lifestyle changes!
Add some probiotic foods to your diet. These are foods that contain ‘live’ bacteria and microorganisms that have been found to help improve the balance of good and bad bacteria in our gut. They have also been found to help with disease management in people affected by MS. Sources of probiotics include live or active yoghurt, a variety of specialist probiotic drinks and some fermented foods such as sourdough bread, kefir and sauerkraut.
Ensure that your diet consists of a regular intake of prebiotic foods. Unlike probiotics, prebiotics does not contain ‘live’ bacteria, but they act as their food source, helping them to flourish in our gut. Examples of prebiotics include onions, garlic, asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke, mushrooms and banana.
Gut unfriendly foods
It is equally as important to be mindful of the type of foods which have been found to aggravate inflammatory responses in our gut. These include strong alcoholic drinks, high-fat meats and highly processed foods. If we limit the number of processed foods in our daily dietary regime we give our guts the best chance of sustaining a healthy microbiome balance. The NHS website provides some handy information about processed foods and intake.
Did you know that stress can be detrimental to our body’s gut microbiota balance? These stressors include sleep deprivation, circadian rhythm disruption, psychological stress, lack of physical activity and noise pollution. It follows that by taking steps to manage the impact that stress has upon our bodies, we can improve our gut health. MS-UK host a range of online services which can help with managing stress, these include our mindfulness courses, chair yoga and exercise classes that are designed to cater for a range of abilities. Go to our MS-UK Online page to find out more.
We realise that for many, smoking cessation is not exactly a walk in the park. So why have we included this in our list? The answer is simple; the benefits of kicking the habit for MSers extend beyond the general health benefits that we are all aware of. In relation to gut health, there is growing evidence that the toxins contained in cigarette smoke unsettle the gut microbiota balance, helping to induce dysbiosis. To find out more about the relationship between MS and smoking, along with information and links regarding kicking the habit, read our smoking and MS Choices booklet.
It is recommended that you consult your GP, neurologist, or MS nurse before making any significant changes to your diet.