Jeannette Hyde is a London-based practising Registered Nutritional Therapist (BSc mBANT, CNHC) who specialises in helping people improve their gut health. She leads a very popular class with us at Cookery School on eating deliciously for a healthy gut, and the foods and meals that can help us get there.
We caught up with Jeannette to discover the importance of maintaining a healthy gut and how you can do this during lockdown.
Q: Why is it important to have a healthy gut?
Firstly, it helps to define what a healthy gut is. You know when you are in gut health when you don’t have any digestive problems. You go to the loo with a formed stool movement every day. You won’t get bloated. You won’t get wind, heartburn or horrible constipation. You know you are in gut health when that’s all working very well.
Good gut health is all about having a really healthy microbiome – which are the trillions of bacteria which live in the digestive system. That’s one long tube from the mouth to the anus. The biggest quantity, or mass of this bacteria is in the last compartment – the colon. What you want is for those microbes to be thriving and to have lots and lots of different ones. You know when you are not in good gut health when your gut bacteria is out of balance. Variety is important and you need lots of good bacteria flourishing.
The really interesting thing is that good gut health and having a healthy microbiome isn’t just about digestive health. It’s also linked to other benefits, such as your immune system which is really relevant to us at the moment. There is so much you can do to promote the diversity of bacteria in your gut and help good bacteria to flourish.
If you want to have a really healthy microbiome there are two things you should concentrate on. One is diversity and having lots of different plants in your diet. That doesn’t mean only plants or going vegan. The best research out there is on the Mediterranean diet where they maintain this plant diversity very naturally. They have lots of extra virgin olive oil, different fruits and vegetables, nuts, pulses and raw cheese. The other big thing to do is to have lots of live fermented foods in your diet and with that you parachute the really friendly bacteria into the gut.
Q: Which foods help to improve the health of your gut?
Anything that is a plant – vegetables, fruits, herbs (which can be dried or fresh), spices, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans and some of the more interesting grains to give you fibre, for example, brown rice, rather than white rice, quinoa, pearl barley. If you can get or make sourdough bread as it has fermented ingredients and you get good bacteria from that. Also if you go for live foods like ferments, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso or raw and unpasteurised cheeses.
Q: Are there any dishes we can easily make during lockdown to improve our gut health?
Here are two things that most people probably have in their cupboards. A tin of tomato soup, the tomatoes here would put lots of lovely rich colour into your gut. A tin of good quality baked beans. The beans would be good at helping to stimulate the growth of good bacteria in your gut. Also try to go for raw or unpasteurised cheeses – Gruyère or Roquefort are naturally probiotic. So you could make a lovely salad with some rocket leaves, crumble on some Roquefort, drizzle on olive oil and you’ve a lovely gut friendly meal or side dish.
You can understand why people in the wartime were doing a lot of pickling and fermenting as it’s a good way to preserve them. Having good quality sauerkraut or fermented gherkin in your fridge will give you a huge amount of probiotic bacteria, but also a good amount of Vitamin C as the this grows and rises when you ferment things like cabbage.
You will learn how to make kimchi on the Gut Health course at Cookery School and it’s very quick and easy to make. We also recommend using extra virgin olive oil as it has polyphenols in it which feed good bacteria in the gut. It’s a great default oil for cooking or as a salad oil.
Q: Are there any simple exercises that we should be doing during lockdown or changing how/when we eat, to improve our gut health?
If you have a long fast overnight without food, your microbiome (the bacteria in your gut) will flourish into a better pattern. It’s like when have laid down a new lawn, and you don’t walk on the grass, it will have time to flourish and grow. I tend to do a 14 hour overnight fast. You eat in a 10 hour window and fast for 14 hours – you can have water in the fast.
Exercise can also help. Even if you do five minutes of star jumps that will help to get your microbiome flourishing.
We look forward to welcoming Jeannette back into Cookery School you can discover more about her classes with her Eating Deliciously for a Healthy Gut classes, with us here.
In the meantime you can find out more about Jeannette Hyde and her work on Gut Health on her website.