Amanda Hamilton, speaker at Nutri Advanced’s ‘The Science of Health’ in June 2019 and author of ‘The G-Plan Diet’, explores how dietary variety, exercise and stress management can help support gut health.
So we need to be nice to our friendly bacteria, this much we all know. But how do we help our clients get engaged in the topic?
I always start by telling clients that the microbiome can change and adapt very quickly. The average lifespan of a microbe is just 20 minutes. Your microbes’ genes change constantly in response to the food you give them. That’s why humans all over the world are able to survive on vastly different diets. Our own genes might take thousands of years to evolve but when it comes to food, our microbes are in charge and they’re very accommodating.
Depending on your client’s situation, a gut friendly diet might be gluten-free, dairy-free, big on supplements or a slow and steady progression with functional foods - the point is, it’s personal. However, there are some simple ways of supporting gut health that can sometimes be missed.
Surveys have shown many of us eat as few as six or seven meals on rotation. Such limited diets are easy to fall into. Life’s busy, clients don’t have time or money to shop at markets and green grocers (if they can find them) or their kids are fussy eaters. The advent of seemingly helpful tools like online supermarket shopping only serves to make the diet more samey – many don’t shop according to what’s in season or what looks best, but what’s on the ‘previous orders’ list.
Breaking free from the monotony of the ‘same old, same old’ diet is a fundamental principle of eating for gut health. Encourage your clients to adopt a diversity mantra, inspire them with menus, get them out of that food rut.
Exercise increases levels of butyrate, a compound produced by gut bacteria that supports immunity. The World Health Organization suggests we each do 150 minutes’ moderate-intensity exercise each week for good health, along with two sessions of strength training. That’s at least five sessions of 30 minutes each, where you’re active enough to be slightly out of breath and breaking a sweat. If you want to increase your fitness and strength further, a personal trainer would suggest doing slightly more.
So, even though a nutritionist or nutritional therapist cannot advise on exercise directly, you can certainly reference the WHO advice and encourage clients to get active to aid their gut health.
When our bodies are in a low-level fight or flight response on a long-term basis, it’s almost always felt in our digestion (thanks to that gut-brain axis). Stress has been linked with IBD, IBS, peptic ulcers, reflux, allergies and more. Scientists have shown being under stress reduces the number and diversity of the microbiota. And poor gut health in turn can cause or exacerbate mental health symptoms.
It can be hard to avoid, of course, and we often don’t know how much it’s affecting us until we emerge the other side. But given the negative effect it can have on our gut, it’s worth building some anti-stress practices into your client’s programme for daily life.
Meditation, yoga, exercise and spending time outdoors in nature are all well-tested techniques. But anything that carves some time out for them works - be sure to ask them what it is that gives them that sense of timelessness – be it reading a novel, singing in a choir, or playing in the shed with power tools – is a worthwhile investment for supporting their gut health.
Amanda Hamilton has been one of the UK's most established nutritionists for over a decade with a career that has included more than eight internationally syndicated TV series and four books, the latest of which ‘The G-Plan Diet’ became a number one Amazon best-seller. Amanda writes several columns for national titles and is a regular on BBC TV and radio.
Day to day, Amanda remains at the helm of her retreat business and licensed spa programmes, these include her signature wellness menus and programmes in Sardinia, and regular hosted events in Spain, Scotland and England. She runs a clinic from her base in London and is also a Pilates teacher.
At ‘The Science of Health’, Amanda drew on her own experiences to speak on how to engage and support client compliance with nutritional advice and therapeutic diets. She also created a delicious gut-friendly lunch menu for the event.
Find out more about ‘The Science of Health’ and purchase the full seminar recording.