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Go with your gut: getting to the core of good health

Gut instinct: a nutritionist and microbiome expert discloses her top digestion secrets

On average, GPs spend 10 per cent of their working life treating patients with digestive disorders. However, although 86 per cent of people in the UK have suffered from a gastrointestinal problem in the past year, few of us have much awareness about the importance of maintaining a healthy digestive system.

Author, nutritionist, gut health expert and Founder of the UK’s leading kefir producer, Chuckling Goat, Shann Nix Jones, divulges her top digestive health secrets from her best-selling Amazon Book, The Kefir Solution, and highlights  how a healthy digestive system can lead to clearer skin, a positive mentality, and healthier wellbeing.  

How important is it to have a healthy digestive system?

“Digestion and gut health are crucial to optimum overall health. Comprised of trillions of beneficial microorganisms that co-exist in the body, the microbiome is essentially another organ. It dictates the ageing process, digestion, brain function, mood, immune system, and is also vital in protecting the body against serious diseases.”

What compromises digestive health?

“Referred to as the four horseman of the gut apocalypse, excess sugar, stress, antibiotics and environmental toxins are all deadly to the gut and compromise its health. Sugary diets alter the makeup of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract (GI), triggering the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

“Emotional stress actually alters the shape and function of microorganisms in the GI tract. These changes prevent energy from fuelling biological processes occurring in the body, instantly impacting the skin, brain, bones, muscles, and hormones.”

How can we improve our digestive health?

“Pure, unflavoured kefir made with goat’s milk and real kefir grains is the fastest and most effective way to improve gut health. The probiotic kefir works by producing serotonin that triggers cells within the gut lining to release molecules that signal brain function, inducing positive behaviour while  reducing elevated levels of inflammation in the brain and body, which relieves symptoms of digestive conditions.

“Avoid antacids when suffering from indigestion. Antacids weaken the strength of hydrochloric acid in the stomach—its natural defence mechanism. This results in chronic gastritis, which, left untreated, causes serious conditions, such as peptic ulcers and stomach cancer. Drinking organic herbal teas as a medication instead of taking pills also helps to protect the stomach lining from bleeding. Try meadowsweet tea instead of paracetamol – it contains salicylic acid, an active painkiller ingredient.”

What aspects of your life can digestive health impact?

“Poor digestive health and damage to the microbiome can induce many conditions. Many experience acne, antibiotic-associated diarrhoea, asthma, autism, autoimmune diseases, dental cavities, depression and anxiety, diabetes, eczema, gastric ulcers, hardening of the arteries, inflammatory bowel diseases, malnutrition and obesity.

"Nourishing and caring for the digestive system by incorporating probiotics into your lifestyle is essential to improving or preventing these conditions.”

Is a healthy diet hindered by an unhealthy digestive system?

"Rather than ‘you are what you eat’, it’s actually ‘you are what you absorb.' Damage to the gut restricts the ability to break down and absorb food—eating a healthy diet is redundant if you have an unhealthy digestive system. However, you should still aim to eat healthy, balanced meals.

“Foods high in sugar and low in fibre induce a rapid increase in blood sugar and cause a surge of bad bugs in the gut. Immune system activity heightens to counteract this, causing conflict between microbial cells and body cells. I recommend incorporating salmon, kale, liver, sweet potatoes, sardines and blueberries into your diet, as these foods foster cooperation between body cells and microbial cells.”  

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