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5 Gut Loving Tips in the Colder Months

Winter, it seems, is in full swing! Darker evenings, cosy nights in, colder weather, delicious food…..the joys of it all!  But with all this fun, can also come greater exposure...

Winter, it seems, is in full swing! Darker evenings, cosy nights in, colder weather, delicious food…..the joys of it all! 

But with all this fun, can also come greater exposure to our gut and immune system. Temperature and humidity variations and increased time together indoors can all help viruses spread more easily. While changes in what we eat and drink can also affect our immune function & gut health. 

Looking after our gut in winter becomes that much more important because as we now know 70-80% of our immune system is in there. Maintaining this intricate balance between our gut bacteria and immune response is important for both our short-term and long-term health.

Increasingly, evidence has shown that our gut microbiome (the trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi that live in our digestive tract) can influence the development of several chronic diseases. These include inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. We also now understood that diet plays a significant role in shaping the gut bacteria, and dietary changes can cause shifts in the bacteria within as little as 24hours

So looking after our gut is really important and has wider health benefits! As a Nutritionist here are my top tips to look after your gut in these colder months.

Tip 1- Colour, colour, colour 

The density and variety of our diet matters! Not only do plant foods provide fibre (aka food) for our gut bacteria to grow and flourish but the colour of fruits and vegetables indicates their health-benefits. For example, green fruits and vegetables are rich in compounds or phytonutrients beneficial for our immune system, liver function and brain health. 

Aim to eat all colours in a day and within a week- red (think berries, red peppers), yellow and orange (carrot, sweet potato, oranges), green (spinach, kale), blue and purple (red cabbage, aubergine), white and brown (think onions, leeks, mushrooms). Chunky soups and stews are a great and comforting option in winter to increase vegetable intake while slightly cooked vegetables can be easier on our digestion and can increase absorption of certain nutrients.

We now know that the number of different plant foods we eat each week is beneficial for our gut bacteria and function. In fact, the American Gut Project, collected data from 10,000 individuals and showed that those who consumed more than 30 plant foods a week in comparison to those who consumed less than 10 had more diversity in their gut bacteria- something that is beneficial for our health. Plant foods include fruit and veg, whole grains, nuts and seeds as well as herbs and spices.

Tip 2- Vitamin D & C

Vitamin D deficiency is widespread in the UK ranging from 12-54%, and it’s a really important vitamin when talking about gut health. Between October and early March, we can’t make vitamin D from sunlight because the sun is too low in the sky so supplementing with 10μg vitamin D is recommended. Vitamin D has been shown to be important in controlling immunity in the gut, balancing the gut microbiome and for maintaining the health of the gut barrier (which is important for protecting us against infection)

Another gut-loving vitamin is vitamin C. Not only is this vitamin important for immune function and collagen production- think skin & join health- but more recently vitamin C has been linked to positive changes in the bacteria present within our gut. It’s has been shown to increase the numbers of bacteria with anti-inflammatory properties and those associated with gut health. Like vitamin D, vitamin C may support a healthy gut barrier function important for keeping bad bacteria, toxins and infection out of our system. Focus on vitamin C- rich foods like acerola cherries, oranges, yellow peppers, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kale, kiwis.

Tip 3- Probiotic-rich foods 

You may have heard by now about the benefits of probiotic-rich foods and for good reason! When consumed probiotics or live microorganisms can offer an array of health benefits. The latest research has shown that probiotics may offer health benefits against a variety of conditions, including allergies, arthritis, depression, heart disease, gut problems and even weight loss! Foods include yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, probiotic-enriched drinks like kefir, kombucha and waters. 

Tip 4 - Get spicy

Spices can provide so many benefits and adding them into our diet is a no-brainer when it comes to gut health, particularly in supporting the growth of beneficial bacterial strains. Turmeric for example is known as an anti-inflammatory powerhouse and has been studied in conditions like arthritis and pain. Interestingly, it has also been shown to positivity influence the gut barrier function and microbiome diversity. Ginger is also a well-loved gut food as it supports proper digestion and helps with nausea. Try turmeric, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, ginger, oregano, and rosemary.

Tip 5 - You time

It’s hard to talk about gut health without talking about stress. And that’s because the brain and gut have a lively ongoing dialog through the gut-brain axis. Stress can negatively impact our bacterial balance and gut barrier making it more ‘leaky’ and allowing bad things in which can then trigger our immune system. To add to this our gut really struggles to digest our foods properly when we are stressed which means we might not be getting all the nutrients from our food. Simple daily stress-reducing techniques like a couple of deep diaphragmatic breathes before eating, eating away from our work desk and focusing on our food can go a long way in supporting in our gut health. 

Everyone's gut health is unique, and individual dietary and lifestyle needs may vary.

A nutritional therapist can provide personalised guidance based on your specific health goals and concerns. Interested in more gut-loving tips- keep an eye out for more to come! 


Georgie Murphy

Nutritional Therapist

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