- Fibre provider: A dry mouth or tooth loss can make it harder to eat fibrous foods as we get older. Softer versions such as porridge, fruit smoothies and hearty vegetable and lentil soups are still great sources of fibre.
- Good bacteria: Aim to consume ‘probiotic’ and ‘prebiotic’ foods. Probiotics place high numbers of ‘good’ bacteria directly into the gut; prebiotic foods (such as onions, asparagus and garlic) ‘feed’ these bacteria. Probiotics and prebiotics can help to improve the transit of food through the intestines, which may help ease constipation.
- Stay hydrated: Water is vital for good gut health – it helps food pass through the digestive system and helps to soften stools. Aim to drink eight glasses each day.
Dr Nick Read, consultant gastroenterologist and psychotherapist, medical adviser to The Gut Trust, shares general guidelines for good gut health:
- Sleep tight: The digestive system needs plenty of rest. Aim for eight hours’ sleep each night; go to bed and get up at set times – and avoid eating close to bedtime.
- De-stress: Stress does not stop once we retire. Try to understand what might have happened to upset the natural movement of your gut. Lead a balanced life, allowing time to relax.
- Look after your colon: A well-balanced gut flora containing high levels of ‘good’ bacteria can stimulate the immune system and prevent pathogens from taking hold. Eat enough fruit, vegetables and cereal fibre. Do not take antibiotics unless unavoidable and consider taking a probiotic to top up levels of good bacteria within the gut.
Personal trainer Sophie Christy offers exercise tips:
- Keep it light: Aim for 30 minutes of exercise five times a week. However, this need not be overly strenuous – build exercise into your daily routine with a lively housework or gardening session!
- Club together: Exercise can be more fun in a group – so why not set up an activity club with friends? Opt for gentler options such as swimming, yoga or Pilates.
- Walk the walk: Walking can have a positive impact on stomach muscles – and therefore overall gut health. Walk with your chest lifted, back upright and tummy pulled in, and you should find that your abdominal muscles contract. Set up a manageable walking schedule, increasing distance and frequency gradually, and these muscles should strengthen over time.
[Caution: If suffering from any medical condition/s, always seek medical advice before embarking upon a new exercise regimen.]