Happy (and Healthy!) New Year

After a few weeks of relaxation and celebrations, I don’t expect I’m the only one eagerly welcoming in a new year, and a little structure and normality. That’s why this month I’m exploring the topic of gut health – AKA taking care of the ‘good’ bacteria that lives in our guts – and exactly what it can do for us. Alongside plenty of impressive physical benefits, recent studies have highlighted links between happy guts and healthy minds too (one study from the Flemish Gut Flora Project for example, found a strong link between gut bacteria and depression). Really interesting stuff.

One of the ways experts recommend keeping our guts happy is through diet – specifically with fermented foods (think things like kimchi, tempeh and kombucha). If you’re in need of a little inspiration, River Cottage Chef Tutor and nutritionist Naomi Devlin (I recommend following her on Instagram here) has all the know-how. A big fan of fermenting (that’s the process that breaks down carbohydrates like starch and sugar by bacteria and yeast) Naomi’s book, Food For A Happy Gut, is stuffed full of nourishing recipes to calm your digestion (she also takes a great food photo – an underrated skill). I’ve found her recipes really inspiring, and I think you will be too.  

 For those still sceptical about the benefits of tending to our guts, I’d recommend reading some of Tim Spector’s research – he’s a professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London and the man behind the British Gut microbiome project. He was one of the first experts to hammer home the importance of gut health and his book, The Diet Myth, explores the importance of keeping gut flora (AKA our ‘microbiota’) happy. For a bite-size introduction to his work, check out Tim’s appearance on one of my favourite podcasts, Feel Better Live More with Dr Rangan Chatterjee here.

Oh, and a final note for those of you not taking part in Dry January – you might be pleased to know alcohol is fermented (red wine is rated the ‘healthiest’ thanks to its polyphenols). You can thank me later… 

A few things health related I would recommend this month are:

Grayshott Health Spa

If the January health kick needs a helping hand, the 7-day Grayshott Health Regime is a sure-fire winner. Signing up for the gut-focused retreat means you’ll be given everything from blood analysis and abdominal massages to hydro-baths and castor oil compresses, as well as plenty of gut-friendly meals and expert lectures from the very best around.

Symprove

A food supplement containing live bacteria in a barley extract might not sound too appetising but Symprove’s water-based formula is special stuff. Since it’s liquid (rather than freeze-dried capsules) it doesn’t trigger digestion and passes through the stomach into the gut to work its magic much more effectively. 

The Mind-Gut Connection

Still unsure how our mind and digestive system links up? Dr Emeran Mayer’s book explains all. Teaching us how to use science to heal our bodies, it’s a really fascinating read (and if nothing else, promises to improve your dinner party chat).