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Gut health is one of the most important aspects of maintaining overall wellbeing. As a complex organ that contains an even more complex microbial ecosystem, there is no magic quick fix to optimise your gut health overnight. However, science shows us that there are a number of lifestyle methods to improve gut health symptoms and help get your gut health on track.
Diet is an effective way to improve gut health. In general, the best way to optimise gut health and your gut microbiome with diet, is to eat a wide diversity of plant-based foods. These can include fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, grains and any other whole foods coming from plant sources, as these contain lots of fibre. Humans do not have the enzymes to digest fibre. Instead, fibre is food for your gut microbiome as is broken down by your gut microbes in your large intestine, to produce metabolites that you can absorb. The recommended daily intake of fibre is 30g/day, but the average person only eats about 15-20g/day.
Your body may respond to various foods differently to your friend, colleague or family member. That is why generic diet advice doesn’t always work for everyone. Exciting evidence shows that personalized diets may be more effective in the future than generalized diets in order to improve health.
The low FODMAP diet is a clinically-proven method to improve bloating, abdominal pain and other gut symptoms. This involves temporarily reducing intake of certain foods that contain FODMAPS (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols) including garlic, onions etc. Importantly, this diet should only be conducted in consultation with a dietitian and is not a permanent diet. As part of the diet, FODMAPS are slowly reintroduced following restriction.
Exercise can significantly improve symptoms of poor gut health for a number of reasons. Exercise can help the muscles to keep working in the gut. It may also help with improve symptoms of gas and bloating. In fact, a recent study found that 2 sessions of yoga per week for 12 weeks was as effective at improving gut health symptoms as the best known dietary treatment (low FODMAP diet). Many other forms of exercise can also improve gut health symptoms, reduce gut inflammation and change the composition of the gut microbiome.
Stress and brain health
Gut health is intricately connected with brain health, through the gut-brain axis. The gut can send signals to the brain and vice versa, therefore stress or anxiety may trigger gut symptoms. A fascinating study in 75 people found that eight weekly and one half-day intensive sessions of mindfulness reduced symptoms of IBS by nearly 40%. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can also improve gut health. This is a form of psychological treatment, similar to counselling that is often used to treat anxiety and other related disorders. In a study of 558 people, CBT over the phone significantly improved symptoms of IBS even up to 2 years after therapy. The gut-brain axis may also work in the opposite direction, whereby targeting gut health may improve brain health. One previous study found that a prebiotic supplement, which feeds healthy gut microbes, reduced the stress hormone cortisol on humans.
What are probiotics?
Live microbe supplements may also improve gut symptoms. In science, these are referred to as ‘probiotics’. Importantly, not all bacteria in food or supplements would be classified by scientists as probiotics, as probiotics have a strict scientific definition:
“Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”
Therefore, under this definition, probiotics have three essential criteria:
The European Food Safety Authority has determined that the word ‘probiotic’ is a health claim and they have not approved this term for use for any food supplements yet. This is the reason that you will not see the word ‘probiotic’ used on any foods or food supplements in Europe. Instead, the words ‘live cultures’ or ‘live bacterial supplements’ are often used instead. However, many of these products do not have any good scientific evidence for health benefits.
Probiotics’ health benefits
A handful of probiotics have proven scientific evidence for improving gut health especially in people with symptoms of IBS. Other evidence shows that certain probiotics can improve markers of health in people classified as healthy. However, it is important to remember that this is usually dependent on the type of probiotic. Probiotics can also improve gut health in other specific circumstances such as reducing antibiotic-associated diarrhea and traveller’s diarrhea.
LP299v® is a clinically-proven live bacterial supplement that forms the basis of Sons’ gut health supplement. This live bacteria is one of the most studied in the world and can help to treat symptoms of IBS and support your gut microbiome to improve general gut health.
LP299v® binds to the cells of the gut wall, ensuring that they are strengthened and healthy. This process encourages a higher production of mucus and leads to big improvements in overall gut health. One recent study found that 45% of people had reduced the intensity of their bloating and abdominal pain after 4 weeks of consistent use.
Ultimately, improving and maintaining good gut health requires a good balance of diet, exercise and stress management. However, the introduction of a scientifically backed gut health supplement can only help to give your gut the extra bit of help it needs.