Good gut health is golden. When your digestive system is in good nick, the flow-on effects are all-pervasive. With 70% of our immune system located in the gut, keeping it healthy can reduce autoimmune symptoms and have you fighting fit. With gut fortitude, your appetite stays regular, metabolism is model, and you can even keep anxiety and depression at bay.

To get to know your gut better, listen out for what it’s trying to tell you. Gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, heartburn, unexpected weight changes, crap sleep quality, skin issues, autoimmune symptoms and food intolerances all point to an unhealthy gut. Even arthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome can be linked to the gut. Your gut has a lot of sway and plays a major role in your overall well being. Here are 5 ways to keep your gut health great.

Keeping your body hydrated, happy, water-wise is the number one present you can give your gut (not to mention your health in general). If you don’t drink enough water, your digestive system suffers; it gets sluggish, and we all know what happens next! The best litmus test to trust you’re drinking enough is by having a wee look at your wee! It should be a light straw colour, no matter what time of day. If you can’t get excited about plain water, add a wedge of orange, a sliver of cucumber or some mint leaves to float some flavour into your H2O. Bear in mind, putting lemon in your water makes it a bit acidic and can play havoc with the enamel on your teeth. Another alternative is to sip herbal tea – you can knock yourself out with flavour choices while you increase your intake.

To make sure these little pills can do their best work – take them every day. A probiotic supplement is an easy way to get a regular dose and input some good bacteria. The good news is, you can still do this without taking a pill. By eating fermented foods such as yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir and drinking kombucha – you can boost these bacteria naturally. The effect won’t be immediate, but within a month, the probiotic strains will have populated your GI and have you feeling great.

Inactivity is constipation’s best friend. If you sit around all day, your digestive system becomes as sedentary as you. Moving aids your system by increasing blood flow to your organs and fires-up the muscles in your gastrointestinal tract (GI). Set aside 30 minutes every day to go for a brisk walk or do something aerobic or that builds strength. If there’s a lot of sitting in your day, break it up by getting up often and moving about in bursts.

Don’t underestimate the link between quality sleep, and having good gut health. When your sleep is less than sensational, you’re more likely to reach for more crappy snacks to give you a sugar-lift and help keep you energised. And you’re more inclined to forgo your exercise because the thought of being active without having slept is an uphill battle. 7-8 hours zzzzz’s every night will keep you on a good-gut path.

Like most aspects of life, good eating is all about moderation. This may be boring, but it’s true (boo!) For keeping your gut happy, it’s simple – restrict the amounts of saturated fat, high sugar, processed and fried foods you eat. These sometimes foods slow down your digestive process and support the bad kind of bacteria and yeast to cultivate in your gut and upset the balance in your intestines. High fibre, minimally processed foods are fab; soluble and resistant starch foods act as prebiotics, which means they encourage good gut bugs. Think plenty of fruits, nuts, seed, vegetables, legumes (beans, chickpeas and lentils) and whole grains.

Too much booze is bad for your digestive system because it causes inflammation. The scary fact is – even moderate alcohol consumption increases your risk of bowel and other cancers. The guidelines are – no more than two standard drinks on any day. So cheers to that. Stress and smoking are two more significant gut enemies, so find ways to stress less or process your tension. And don’t smoke.

Brittany Fletcher