All About Gut Health
Hydration check – do you need to drink some water?
So, what is gut health exactly?
The gut is the engine room of the body. It’s where all the raw materials (food, drink, medicines) are broken down into constituent parts, processed and then distributed, either to be used, stored, or discarded. But what does gut health actually mean? We asked Twinings’ Herbal Expert, Pamela Spence (Medical Herbalist BSc, MNIMH).
When we talk about the gut in the context of health, we mean your entire digestive system; from what goes into your mouth, to what exits at the end, and every step in between. It encompasses:
- your gut microbiome
- your digestion
- your cholesterol
- triglycerides, or even blood sugar levels
- regularity of your bowel movements, and
- if you experience digestive discomfort
In other words, your gut health is measured by the efficiency with which your digestion can process, assimilate and eliminate what you consume.
What impact does gut health have on our overall wellbeing?
We used to think that the gut’s domain was limited to digestion but, in recent years, we have discovered that we have very much underestimated it. The gut microbiome – that’s the bacteria that live in our gut – actually play a crucial role in areas such as immunity and even mental health.
The gut is also one of our main routes of assimilation – taking the good out of the food and drink we consume. If it’s not functioning properly, we can miss out on utilising vital nutrients in our food. Its other main role is in elimination – flushing out waste. If it’s unable to do that effectively, toxins can remain in our bodies, affecting everything from energy levels to skin clarity.
How can we improve our gut health?
Note: If you’re concerned about your gut health, we always recommend you consult your doctor first.
1. Pre- and probiotics
Good gut health includes regular bowel movements without discomfort, and we need a healthy microbiome to achieve this. Taking probiotics daily can help our microbiome to create an efficient and well-functioning digestive system. A prebiotic (a soluble fibre) feeds that microbiome, supporting it while it supports us.
2. Hydration and nutrition
Good hydration and nutrition is also important. Drinking plenty of water will help your body flush waste out, and eating a rainbow of fruit and vegetables will ensure you’re always getting a wide variety of nutrients.
Herbs can also play an important role in soothing and preventing digestive discomfort. Peppermint and ginger are excellent for nausea, fennel seed promotes digestive health, and chamomile can help calm the nervous system and give you relief from stress-related symptoms.
We’re only just beginning to learn about the importance of the microbiome and its impact on our bodies and minds, but good gut health doesn’t have to be complicated.
Eating as well as we can, hydrating, exercising and resting will do a whole lot to let the body work optimally. Small, repeatable changes that don’t cost a lot of money are the things that will make the most profound differences over time.
About Pamela Spence
Pamela has been fascinated by herbs since growing up surrounded by the fragrant wet markets of Singapore as a teenager. After a hectic career in film and television.
Pamela left to study herbal medicine in 2002 and has been running a successful clinical practice in Scotland writing and teaching about herbs ever since. Pamela is often spotted giving expert commentary in the media including in her own BBC online series and in Hello Women & Home and The Financial Times magazines.
Pamela has been the Twinings herbal expert since 2016 helping create herbal blends for Australia UK and the USA.