The gut is a complex thing. When it is working well, we have the ability to thrive. And when it's off it can affect not only our energy, mood and immunity, but also how confident we feel in our own skin.
To have a healthy gut, we need healthy bacteria and those bacteria need to be fed. Prebiotic's refer to foods that contain certain undigestible nutrients that help feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Artichoke is one of the best, along with banana, asparagus, lentils, chicory, garlic, leek and cooked onions. Make sure some of these are a staple in your diet.
Add in Fermented Foods
Fermented foods - like kimchi, kefir and sauerkraut all contain their own host of beneficial bacterial, enzymes, nutrients and oligosaccharides that are incredibly beneficial for the body. They can help digestion immunity, and supply you with your B Vitamins that aid with energy and metabolism. The trick is the buy unpasteurised products because the majority of the bacteria will be destroyed in the process. You don't need to eat these everyday, even twice a week makes a huge difference.
When you eat, just eat.
This is both the hardest and easiest thing to do. Most of us have fallen into the habit of eating in front of the computer, phone, TV or even worst - while on the go. This is a digestive no-no. It affects gut to brain signalling, so it's incredibly easy to overeat (as the body doesn't register it as well). It means we chew less - which means the food isn't mechanically digested in the way it should once it reaches the gut, cue fermentation, bloating, and tiredness. If you're stressed while you're eating (ie. whilst reading a tense email) or even just on the go, cortisol is high, which switches off digestion. This makes it even more difficult to break down food. Eat, chew, put your fork down (after EVERY bite), and enjoy. Aim to take twice as long to eat as you usually do - you'll be shocked at how effective it is.
Go to Bed Empty
One of the best things you can do to help your gut thrive is allow it to do its thing, and in order to digest, manufacture, assimilate and conjugate all the things it needs to, it needs to have some period of time where it's NOT full. Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine both say that you should avoid eating for 3 hours before you sleep. It may seem like a while, but you should be aiming for 2 as a regular habit. If you have big problems with your gut, I would recommend trying to make it 3 hours for a period of 2 weeks and see if it makes a difference.
Cut the Chemicals
Chemical sweeteners, additives and preservatives can be super confusing for the body. They can trigger inflammation, immune reactions, and wreak havoc on your blood sugar. Chemical sweeteners have actually been shown to impair glucose tolerance, which is the exact opposite to their desired effect (read: if you're still drinking diet coke, stop now). Constant exposure to these can also change the proportion of bad to good bacteria in your gut, which exposes you to a whole host of potential effects. Basically, if your food was created in a lab, give it a pass.