By Jessica Sepel

The JSHealth Program has been the best way for me to really connect to my community and understand what issues people are struggling with when it comes to their health. Digestive and stomach problems seem to be very high up on the list for peoples biggest health concerns. As a nutritionist I believe there are various things that are impacting our gut health: high stress levels (cortisol), not enough good gut flora (and not enough diversity of gut flora), gluten consumption and extreme fad dieting. Here are my top tips to combat gut and digestive health issues like bloating, constipation, wind, slow digestion, leaky gut, poor absorption and lethargy (to name a few).

– Take care of stress levels. The gut basically freezes when you are stressed – commit to stress reducing exercises everyday, such as meditation, laying down with your legs up the wall or having a relaxing bath.

– Add probiotics or fermented vegetables to each meal. I personally use a very good probiotic 2x/daily and add fermented veggies to my meals where I can – but not everyone feels good after fermented vegetables. Test it out.

Give up gluten, flour & grains – these sticky foods just don’t digest very well for most of us. I’ve found people find their gut really improves after 2-4 weeks off these foods – try it. Carbs are still so important – especially for thyroid health. So go for gluten-free options such as oats, quinoa, almond meal, sweet potato & root veggies. Green veggies and berries are also great sources of nutrient dense carbohydrates.

Give up refined sugar for life – sugar damages the gut and feeds bad bacteria. I use cinnamon and stevia to sweeten my foods and enjoy healthy sweet treats moderately (from my books and blog).  I’m not about depravation so I love to indulge in dessert on the weekends but during the week I stay clear of all refined sugar – it makes me tired!

Dairy – be mindful of your dairy consumption and figure out how you respond to it. My personal rule is no more then 2 portions of good quality local dairy a day. If you eat dairy and react immediately with bloating or any gut discomfort – avoid it. I love organic Greek yoghurt and organic milk in small amounts.

Dark leafy Greens at every meal for your fibre hit! So important. I also love adding 1-2 tbsp oat bran to my breakfast for extra fibre. Greens are also anti-inflammatory.

– Use food to fight inflammation. Along with greens, turmeric or curcumin can be used at a therapeutic dose (guided by practitioner!) to help reduce systemic inflammation. Drinking aloe vera in water is highly soothing to the system and the gut, and colourful fruit and veggies are super important to gut health. They contain various nutrients and antioxidants that help fight inflammation and disease, so it’s essential to eat a diverse range of colourful wholefoods each day.

Protein is so important at every meal, but not too much – A good portion guide is to make your protein serving the size of your palm. This can help the gut lining to repair itself. This is true of plant-based protein too, such as beans.

Give up dieting and fads! The endless cycle of dieting and following unhealthy fad diets and proclaimed quick-fixes just cause gut strain and and stress, which contribute greatly to ill-health. Many people with disordered eating tend to experience long term IBS issues. Commit a health lifestyle that is sustainable instead of dieting.

– Finally, I suggest adding 2tbsp of Apple Cider Vinegar (with mother) to a 1litre water bottle to sip slowly throughout the day. This helps to increase stomach acid which decreases bloating, reflux and helps with absorption of nutrients.