Spring Clean Your Gut Health

Advice and tips from dietitian Jo Travers, for Love Your Gut

Our gut health has the power to impact everything, from our mood and immunity to our weight. So it’s important to make sure we give it the love and attention it deserves… which is why dietitian Jo Travers has shared her top tips for Love Your Gut, on how we can all give ourselves a gut health ‘spring clean’.

Jo advises: “Although 8 in 10 people recognise the importance of having a healthy gut, millions are unaware of the small, and simple, lifestyle changes that can be made to improve digestive health[1]. This is why it’s so important to understand your gut, and the lifestyle factors which can impact it, so ultimately you can give it the love it deserves.

“The digestive system is unique in the sense that it communicates via all five senses. These communications – from the noises it makes, to the pains you feel, and even the smells and tastes you might experience – can all provide health indicators and early warning signs of gut health problems.   Learn to listen to your gut because the more you can tune into it the more you can really understand what it’s trying to tell you.”

Thankfully, picking up on these signs doesn’t have to be difficult and Jo has shared her top tips on getting your gut back on track, helping you not only a healthy gut, but a happy one too:

Learn to listen to your gut

Always wondered why your gut rumbles and groans sometimes? These noises are caused by the drive of gas and fluid through different regions of your gut. This fluid is a mixture of food, drink and digestive juices, with the gas frequently a result of swallowed air. These noises are more obvious when you are hungry or nervous, because stimulation of the vagus nerve (which connects and carries a range of signals from the digestive system and organs to the brain and vice versa, known as the gut-brain axis*) causes the gut to act a little faster than usual, moving these gases and fluids through the different regions of the gut more quickly.

Take note of how it feels

Cramping of the stomach and abdominal pain can be discomforting. These pains are more likely due to contracting muscles within the gut. However, in rare cases, if the pain is persistent and severe, this may indicate an intestinal obstruction.

Pain like a knife just below the breastbone, that is relieved by eating, may suggest peptic ulceration – these are sores which develop inside the lining of your stomach and the upper portion of your small intestine.

Pain in the right upper corner of the abdomen, spreading round to the back just below the right shoulder blade, may indicate gallstones.

Bloating may be related to a combination of stress and ingestion of gas-producing fruit and vegetables, or sugary or fatty fats, but if painful and continuous, it may be a sign of something more serious.

Because pain and discomfort in the abdomen can occur in many different illnesses, it is always worth going to your GP to rule out a more serious condition if the problem persists.

Get enough sleep

As the evenings become lighter, you may find yourself out and about later, which in turn may disrupt sleeping patterns. Sufficient sleep is something everyone needs and depriving yourself of it won’t help your gut health, as it hinders the communication between the gut and the brain.

The bacteria in the gut directly communicate with the central nervous system[2] and disrupted sleep can affect the levels of bacteria in the gut[3].

Keep to a routine

Make sure you continue to follow a routine and go to bed at the same time each night, that your bedroom is a restful and comfortable sleeping environment, and that you cut down on stimulants such as caffeine (e.g. tea and coffee) in the evening.

Diversify your diet

The foods you eat every day play an important role in your overall health. Different foods are made up of varying amounts of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, as well as vitamins and minerals. All these nutrients provide your body with energy, to help it function at its best day after day. Diversity in the diet involves eating foods from different food groups, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and dairy foods.

Fermented foods like kombucha, kefir or other fermented milk products are good for your gut health as they can alter brain activity via signalling pathways in the gut-brain axis.

Notice bad tastes

Sufferers of acid reflux may experience a sour taste caused by regurgitated stomach acid. Another common symptom of acid reflux is heartburn, a burning sensation in the middle of your chest and you may also experience bloating and feeling sick.

Acid reflux and heartburn can be caused or made worse by eating certain food and drink, such as coffee, tomatoes, alcohol, chocolate or fatty/spicy foods, as well as if you smoke, are pregnant, have stress and anxiety, or are obese.

Simple lifestyle changes can help stop or reduce heart burn and acid reflux, including eating smaller and more frequent meals, losing weight and finding ways to relax.[4]

Keep track and talk to others

One of the easiest ways to monitor your gut health is by monitoring what you eat and drink and cross referencing with any symptoms you may experience. A simple way to do this is by keeping a food and symptoms diary, where you can keep note of the food and drink you consume alongside symptoms and then share this with your GP or dietitian, who will be able to help identify any triggers.

In addition, completing a Digestive Health Assessment via the Love Your Gut website, can also help identify any potential issues or worries, which can then be discussed with your GP.

Speak to your GP

Remember, if you’re worried about anything at all when it comes to your gut, it’s important to speak to your GP who will be able to reassure you and provide the help and further advice that may be required.

Many people often feel embarrassed when it comes to discussing their gut health, but it’s important to share your worries as dealing with digestive problems alone can be stressful and isolating – having someone to talk to, who can offer support, is the best way to help improve your gut health.

Love Your Gut’s #GutTalkGuide

Love Your Gut’s #GutTalkGuide is a useful tool to help you talk about gut health issues with healthcare professional, friends, family and colleagues.

For more information visit www.loveyourgut.com

*What is the gut-brain axis?

The gut and the brain ‘talk’ to each other on a regular basis, using special chemical messengers produced by the billions of different bacteria that live in our gut. For example, among these we can find dopamine and serotonin – also known as happiness or ‘feel-good’ hormones. Although gut-brain axis communication is two-way, over 80% of the messages are sent from the your gut to the brain rather than the other way round. So, it really does pay to give your gut some love!


[1] Love Your Gut 2021 Research

[2] The Brain-Gut-Microbiome Axis. Clair R. Martin, Vadim Osadchiy, Amir Kalani, and Emeran A. Mayer https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6047317/#

[3] Gut microbiome diversity is associated with sleep physiology in humans

Robert P. Smith, Cole Easson, Sarah M. Lyle, Ritishka Kapoor, Chase P. Donnelly, Eileen J. Davidson, Esha Parikh, Jose V. Lopez, Jaime L. Tartar . Published: October 7, 2019


[4] NHS website https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heartburn-and-acid-reflux/