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Ask The Experts: Plagued with indigestion, bloating or constipation? Here’s how to improve your gut health

Changing your lifestyle habits and adding more healthy food that contain prebiotics and probiotics to your diet could help a great deal, says BRAND’S research director Jack Wong (PhD)

There are simple yet effective ways you can improve your gut health – such as incorporating prebiotics and probiotics into your diet. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Q. What are some common symptoms of an unhealthy gut? 

If you frequently experience stomach discomfort and have poor digestion, bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhoea, these are clear signs that your gut is unhealthy. 

For people in generally good health, if you start feeling digestive distress, problems with your bowel movements or abdominal pain, these symptoms may also indicate an unhealthy gut. 

Other symptoms of an unhealthy gut are mood swings or a poor immunity. Allergies or food sensitivity are also warning signs. 

Q. How can poor gut health affect your body? 

Apart from the obvious issues like constipation and diarrhoea, poor gut health may lead to a myriad of health conditions. 

The gut houses roughly 70 per cent of your immune system. If your gut health is impaired, your immune system also weakens. 

The gut, which comprises the gastrointestinal system of the body, is also closely linked to the brain. Research has shown that poor gut health is associated with increased levels of stress, anxiety and depression. 

Conversely, how you feel also impacts your gut. Stress or anxiety are often the reasons why people experience gastrointestinal disorder but there are no other obvious physical causes. 

A healthy, balanced gut could also help in reducing allergic responses and inflammation, which can help to improve skin health. 

Q. What lifestyle habits can I adopt to support gut health?

There are simple but effective lifestyle changes that you can make to improve your gut health. 

Exercise regularly
Studies indicate that regular exercise can be beneficial to the gut. Exercising can improve the microbiome – specifically, the microorganisms of the gut – resulting in more beneficial microbial species.

It can also improve the metabolism of nutrients, which means the body is able to process nutrients more efficiently.

Consume sufficient amounts of water
Apart from rehydrating your body, drinking water also helps your intestines to function properly. Dehydration and constipation are closely linked. Insufficient consumption of water may lead to hoarding of water in your intestines, leading to dry and hard stools.

Get sufficient sleep
Your body has an internal timekeeper, and so does your gut. Disrupting your sleep-wake cycle via late nights can disrupt the rhythm required for your body to produce healthy gut microbiome.

Lack of sleep can increase cortisol levels, the stress hormone, which in turn may cause gastrointestinal issues such as irritable bowel syndrome. 

Adopt a healthier diet
Making changes to your diet is the most important step you can take to improve your gut health. One way to do so is to consume foods that naturally contain prebiotics or probiotics. 

You can also include more fibre in your diet by eating more fruits and vegetables. This will support digestion and bowel movements. At the same time, limit your intake of processed food as these contain high levels of trans fats, which increase gut inflammation.

BRAND’S Pre+Probiotics is uniquely formulated with prebiotics, probiotics and fibre to help improve bowel movement, as well as ease indigestion and bloatedness. PHOTO: BRAND'S

Q. What type of foods or supplements can I add to my diet to improve gut health? 

Good gut health requires three categories of nutrients, which can be obtained from our diet: prebiotics, probiotics, and fibre. 

Natural sources of prebiotics include legumes, beans, peas, asparagus, bananas and garlic, while natural sources of probiotics include yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and kombucha. 

Eating fibre-rich food can help gut motility and bowel movement. To include more fibre in your diet, consume fruits and vegetables, whole grain food such as buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice and corn. Limit your intake of refined carbohydrates like white bread and pasta. 

Another option to add to your diet is a probiotic supplement. BRAND’S Pre+Probiotics is a health supplement that contains prebiotics, probiotics and dietary fibre. It contains a sturdy probiotic strain called the Bacillus coagulans that can survive the passage through stomach acid to reach the intestines, where it can exert positive effects. 

The addition of prebiotics selectively encourages good bacteria to grow, while adding dietary fibre supports regular bowel movement.

An internal study conducted with Chung Shan Medical University in Taiwan with 37 subjects found that the consumption of BRAND’S Pre+Probiotics two sachets daily over four weeks was found to increase good bacteria in the gut, regulate bowel movement and improve gut immunity.

Q. What is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics? Why do we need both? 

Probiotics refer to beneficial live bacteria and yeasts that keep your body healthy by maintaining a balance between good and bad bacteria. 

Prebiotics are a special type of fibre that your body cannot digest, but they can be digested by probiotics. Prebiotics act as food for probiotics and support the latter’s growth. We need both to continually balance the level of these good bacteria in your gut.

Suitable for both adults and children from four years old, BRAND’S Pre+Probiotics can be enjoyed many ways – directly from the sachet or by stirring it into water or juice, tossing it with a salad or sprinkling it over desserts. PHOTO: BRAND'S

Q. What are some ways I can consume BRAND’S Pre+Probiotics?  

The supplement comes in easy-to-consume peach-flavoured powder sachets that are zero-fat, low-calorie and low-sugar, and also do not require refrigeration. You can enjoy it directly from the sachet or by stirring it into water or juice, tossing it with a salad or sprinkling it over desserts.

BRAND’S Pre+Probiotics is suitable for both adults and children from four years old. The recommended intake is two sachets daily after meals (for adults and children above 12 years) and one sachet daily after meals (for children aged four to 12).

You can purchase BRAND’S Pre+Probiotics at the BRAND'S official online store, store.brandsworld.com.sg.

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