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Everything you need to know about gut health


The term ‘go with your gut’ has never been more relevant. Because, you’ve no doubt noticed that more and more people are starting to talk about the importance of gut health to your overall health and wellbeing. Unsurprisingly, this is for good reason, especially as we start to get older.

While appearance is often one of the first things we think about, what we should remember is that our body’s ageing really begins on the inside. Our microbiome – or the ecosystem of trillions of microbes that live in our body – is what we refer to when we talk about our gut, and our gut health.

The bacteria in our gut are responsible for helping to digest foods so we can access all the nutrients in them. Because we can’t access the available nutrients without food being broken down, our large intestine works to break down indigestible components like fibre, so we can get all the good stuff our bodies need. Probiotics are live bacteria that you can include in your diet through certain foods to help your digestive system stay happy and healthy.

So, why do we need to think about gut health even more as we get older?

As we get older, our gut microbiome changes and becomes less diverse. This can be because of a number of things – from antibiotics we might be taking, to our hygiene habits. Are you eating a lot of processed foods? Do you have a stressful or sedentary lifestyle? These all contribute to a less diverse gut microbiome, which means there is more opportunity for bad bacteria to take over and cause various diseases – including things like urinary tract infections or pneumonia.

Six most important reasons you should care about your gut health

  1. It’ll keep your immune system strong
    Whether you’re someone who is prone to getting sick or not, your microbial diversity will decrease as you get older. This impacts your immune function, as it can become supressed or overstimulated if its not well balanced. Good gut health will help regulate your immune health and help keep any nasties away – especially if you do tend to pick up sickness easily.
  2. A healthy gut means a healthy brain
    There is research that shows probiotics can promote the growth of new brain cells, especially after antibiotic use. This means, if you’re someone who has been ill recently and had to take antibiotics, it could benefit you to actively increase your intake of probiotics to make sure your brain keeps ticking over to its best ability.
  3. Help with detoxification of your body
    From toxins we consume in our food and water, to those we’re exposed to in the environment around us, the more years we’ve had under our belts, the more time we’ve been exposed to these things. This means, the older we get, the more we should aim to combat and detox from those toxins.
  4. Boosting your memory retention
    As we get older, we may see a drop in our memory retention, but studies show that probiotics can help boost your memory – no matter how old you are. As well as your memory, a healthy gut can help with cognitive function. So, if you’re concerned about how the cogs are turning at the moment, be sure to consider increasing the probiotics in your diet.
  5. Give your skin a youthful glow
    If you’re someone who has spent plenty of time out in the sun over the years, take note! As well as helping you absorb nutrients – one way to give your skin a glow – probiotics can also restore pH and reduce skin damage from the sun. As the body’s largest organ, and a primary barrier for our body, it’s important that we keep our skin happy and healthy. If you’re keeping your gut in check, you’ll also be improving the skin barrier that protects you from nasties like toxins and bacteria.
  6. Get an energy boost
    By absorbing nutrients from the healthy foods in your diet, probiotics will help make sure you’re getting all those nutrients, vitamins and minerals that you really need to give you a better dose of energy. Whether you’ve had a long day at the office or you’ve been running around after grandkids, everyone needs a bit more pep in their step to get through the day!

Simple ways to keep your gut healthy

To keep our gut healthy doesn’t have to mean a diet overhaul. Just like we shouldn’t be getting caught up in the idea of ‘superfoods’, we also don’t need to overthink our diet to keep our gut healthy. Dr Michael Mosley, author of The Clever Guts Diet says it’s just about knowing the regular foods that are nutrient-packed and tasty.

The biggest thing to keep in mind is switching from a diet full of sugar and processed food to one that is higher in fibre. There are also plenty of foods that might already make a regular occurrence in your diet; you might just need to up the intake because they’re particularly good for your gut.

Four foods that keep your gut happy (that you’re probably eating!)

  1. Yoghurt
    This will probably come as no surprise; we’ve all seen a yoghurt ad or two on the TV, and they always mention the health benefits of the food. When you head to the shops, whether it’s for Greek yoghurt or the full-fat variety, be sure to get something with the phrase ‘live active cultures’ on the label.
  2. Cocoa
    Cocoa, once broken down in the colon, is not only good for your cardiovascular system, but it’s also full of flavonoids and polyphenols, which help your gut bacteria. Think unsweetened hot cocoa or dark chocolate with a cocoa content of more than 70 per cent. Unfortunately it’s not an opportunity to indulge in milk chocolate, that’s just full of sugar!
  3. Apple cider vinegar
    An easy addition to your salad dressing or added into a mug of warm lemon water in the morning, apple cider vinegar is a great and inexpensive way to help out your digestive system. Full of enzymes and friendly bacteria, apple cider vinegar can help boost the good bacteria in your gut, and get rid of the harmful ones.
  4. Chickpeas
    Chickpeas are easy to introduce as a staple into your diet – from whipping up your own homemade hummus to adding them to curries or toasting them to add to salads, the options are endless! Because of the high fibre content in chickpeas, they’re an ideal way to help your digestive system so you stay regular – if you know what we mean! As well as maintaining healthy bowel movements, chickpeas are full of iron, phosphate, calcium and magnesium to help keep your bones strong.

If you’re looking to find out more about how to improve your gut health, it’s best to talk directly to your GP to get information that’s individually catered to you. Everybody, and every body, is different, so a medical profession is the best port of call to find out what best suits you.


This material has been prepared for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on as, a substitute for health and medical advice from a qualified health professional. You should seek the advice of a qualified health professional regarding your health and/or medical condition. 

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