How Gut Health Can Change Your Life

Nutritionist Rosemary Ferguson tells Rosamund Dean why you could be underestimating your body’s secret weapon

Best foods for gut health

by Rosamund Dean |

There’s nothing like a pandemic to make you think about your immunity, and what you can do to futureproof your health as we venture back out into this uncertain world. Experts agree you can’t ‘boost’ your immune system as such, but you can certainly support your body’s immune response – by getting enough sleep, keeping active, reducing stress where you can (I know, easier said than done), and making good decisions about what you eat (more veg, less sugar: the broad strokes of nutrition remain very simple). Yet, is there one element of health you might be overlooking?

Nutritionist and naturopath Rosemary Ferguson is on a mission to get people paying attention to their gut. The gastrointestinal tract, through which food is digested then expelled, is not the sexiest element of human biology. ‘But your body’s immune system lies in the gut,’ says Rosemary, so it’s one of the most important elements of keeping your body fighting fit.

How to nourish and take care of your gut

Gut health truly is the starting point when addressing issues in the body,’ she continues. ‘They say we are what we eat – but really we are what we digest and absorb. Good digestion turns the food you eat into fuel for your body’s cells. Many people have poor digestion, which makes them feel fatigued, foggy, bloated and gassy, with nutritional deficiencies, constipation, diarrhoea, weight gain, low immune function and hormonal imbalances – to name just a few of the issues! If the gut isn’t working, nothing is.’

How to show your gut some love? Clearly, what you eat is a good place to start, and you know much of the nutrition advice already: veg, veg, veg, plus ‘fresh wholefoods in their purest form,’ says Rosemary. ‘And avoiding processed, sugary foods is a huge step in the right direction, but a healthy gut also needs a good balance of bacteria. Your gut holds trillions of bacteria that process food, produce nutrients, and fight disease.’

Wholegrains, beans and (sorry to bang on, but) veg are all great sources of fibre, which will keep your gut running smoothly, and fermented foods are brilliant for repopulating your gut’s good bacteria – try live yoghurt, sourdough and kefir or miso.

Your gut is your second brain

While nutrition is clearly vital, don’t discount the importance of reducing stress and keeping your body moving. One of Rosemary’s best tips is establishing a routine or starting a challenge as a good way of getting motivated to exercise or meditate. That’s why initiatives like Couch to 5k are so popular.

And it’s not only your immunity that will benefit. According to Rosemary, everything from your sleep and your hormones to your mental health will improve. ‘The gut has everything to do with everything,’ she explains. ‘95% of your serotonin is made in your gut. It’s why they call your gut your “second brain”. Serotonin is best known as the happy hormone, but it’s also a chemical transmitter that works closely with melatonin, so can affect your sleep, which is crucial in terms of your mood.’

Rosemary is an excellent advert for her advice. Even over FaceTime, she glows with good health – which admittedly is partly down the excellent genes that led to her first career as a model. She spent 15 years in the industry, shooting Prada campaigns and walking the catwalk for Alexander McQueen, while partying with the Primrose Hill set - and, let’s face it, you need good genes for your skin to stand up to that kind of lifestyle. She married British artist Jake Chapman in 2004, and they now live in a converted barn in the Cotswolds with daughters Bliss, 14 and Blythe, 13. Her eldest, 20-year-old Elfie, has gone into the family business and is on the books at the Kate Moss Agency.

‘I modelled for a long time: travelling, working, playing and feeling run down,’ Rosemary explains. ‘I spent an even longer time being less than angelic!’ It’s one of the reasons why Rosemary’s approach is so popular – she is all about balance, and knows the importance of eating and drinking things that you enjoy. It only becomes a problem if you overdo it. ‘I am well versed in fatigue and stress, which is what led me to study nutrition,’ she says. ‘I qualified as a naturopath and nutritionist in 2009, and have nearly completed my Functional Medicine qualifications too.’

Now she has never been happier and, for anyone considering a post-lockdown career change, she is the poster girl for self-reinvention. ‘I love my job!’ she grins. ‘It’s an ever-changing field, which is very exciting. In clinic, I’m constantly faced with different scenarios, and with that comes a huge sense of reward knowing you’ve helped someone.’ Her advice for anyone thinking of taking the leap? ‘Do your research on where you’d like to study, as there are so many options. But it’s never too late, you can train at any age,’ she declares, ‘so go for it!’

Rosemary’s ‘be good to your gut’ guide

Eat plenty of fibre: flaxseeds and leafy greens are a great source. This not only keeps your bowels moving, but also helps eliminate excess hormones.

Try and eat probiotic whole foods (such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and miso) and prebiotic whole foods (onions, garlic, artichokes and not-too-ripe bananas) regularly.

Hydrate throughout the day. Drinking lots of water helps to remove excess waste and keeps our bowels healthy.

Having said that, water dilutes the gastric juices that are vital for the breakdown of our food so, if you have digestive problems, don’t drink with your meal (I find this hard!).

A probiotic supplement is a good idea. I take Symprove (£79 for a four-week pack, or £149.99 for 12 weeks) every day, which repopulates the gut with good bacteria.

Relax! A stressed body can wreak havoc on your digestive system.

Gallery

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia
1 of 14
CREDIT: Mindful Chef

One of the newest and best companies leading this trend is Mindful Chef, set up by Giles Humphires and Myles Hopper (below) in 2014. London based, these cool cats set out to provide a super healthy meal-kit service delivering Paleo based dinners to people's doors. (In case you need reminding, Paleo is mainly fish, meat and vegetable. It's one of the most good for you diets out there right now). Co-founder Giles tells us, 'We only use responsibly sourced, organic meat, fish caught by local day boats and organic veg from Devon. The veg is pulled out of the ground on Friday and on your doorstep on Sunday. We are reinventing the process as we believe veg shouldn't sit in supply chains for weeks.'How It Works: Mindful Chef have partnered up with Eversfield Organic Farm in Devon to deliver a box of produce once a week to your doorstep. Mindful Chef have a No Processed Food Rule, so the ingredients are as fresh as you can get with nutrient-dense British vegetables. With the ingredients and recipe cards you can rustle perfectly portioned Paleo dishes. Giles and Myles tell us, 'After a few weeks of healthy home cooking, our customers report feeling leaner, with better skin, brighter eyes and feeling more alive!' Highlight meals include: Walnut & mustard beef, orange, beetroot & watercress salad, Salmon & courgette skewers with fried endive and sweet potato mash and Spiced pork baby fajita gem wraps with a coconut & lime dressing. Prices from £24. Yum!

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia
2 of 14
CREDIT: Gousto

Working with well-respected brands like Yeo Valley and Woodlands Farm Gousto are passionate about creating exciting, colourful, healthy meals. Highlights include, Dill and Courgette Fish, Daikon Curry and Pulled Chicken Salad. Prices from £29.99.

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia
3 of 14
CREDIT: Hello Fresh

Sourcing their fish from Mayfair Fishmonger James Knight which has reportedly supplied Clarence House for years this Meal Kit Service is truly a royal affair. Not only do they do the Classic and Veggie Boxes they also provide a Family Box for up to 5 people. Ideal! Prices starting from £31.98.

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia
4 of 14
CREDIT: Green Box

Green Chef is the first UK recipe box to offer a fully keto meal preference, in addition to four other diets: lower carb, balanced, vegan, and vegetarian. Customers will have complete flexibility to mix and match recipes from different meal preferences, so mealtimes are always full of variety and inspiration, and healthy eating is fun. For three meals a week for two people, each meal comes to £5.95 per serving plus £3.99 shipping.

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia
5 of 14
CREDIT: Simply Cook

In addition to their healthy low-calorie Discovery Box, Simply Cook also does a box suitable for those of us that are gluten-free. Offerings include Cod and Chorizo Broth, and Firecracker Chicken are just a couple of the Coeliac ready recipe kits. Prices from £10.

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia
6 of 14

Award-winning plant-based meal delivery service, allplants offers start from £4.99 per person per meal, making them a perfect choice for vegetarians, vegans or anyone who's looking to reduce the amount of meat in their diets. They deliver five days a week, so you can choose a delivery slot to fit in with your life: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia
7 of 14
CREDIT: Japan Centre

Japan Centre, one of the largest and most influential Japanese stores in Europe, has launched easy to make DIY at home kits. What could more healthy than fresh fish, avocado and edamame peas? The DIY kits available include DIY Sushi Rolls, Poke Bowls, the UK's first authentic Sakura Cherry Blossom & Matcha Cookies and Sake Flight.

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia
8 of 14
CREDIT: Riverford Organic Farm

Winners of The Observer Ethical Award five years in a row, Riverford's 100% organic Recipe Boxes offer an easy way to enjoy seasonal recipes each week – including low plastic, seasonal stars, plant-based (vegan) recipes, comforting family favourites and more. Each has easy step-by-step instructions and exact quantities of every organic ingredient, so there's no food waste. All with free delivery straight to your door. Prices from £12.45 for a meal for two.

Pollen + Grace
9 of 14

One of our favourite meal delivery kits to date, Pollen + Grace, make ready meals feel gourmet. They're all healthy, vegan and of course... delicious. With yummy breakfast pots, veg boxes packed with protein and fibre, and heatable meal boxes delivering serious feel-good fakeaway vibes, enjoy healthy meals without the hard work. Available to buy in various supermarkets in store and online.

The Pure Package
10 of 14

The most luxurious healthy meal kit out there, The Pure Package, is definitely a cut above the rest when it comes to quality and quantity food. You can choose from packages like training support, weight loss, healthy eating and longevity, as well as all of your specific diet requirements like vegan or vegetarian. Testing out the 'training support' diet for three days, I was more than satisfied with the high quality of the food and the range of meals available. The addition of snacks made the diet all the more fulfilling and certainly aided my training schedule. Seriously, this meal kit might be a treat, but it's a treat you deserve. Prices start from £49.95

Planthood
11 of 14

Another delicious plant-based option, Planthood delivers restaurant-quality meals to your door. There are also many gluten-free options. Think dishes such as tender tofu bites, tossed in a tandoori marinade of garlic, ginger, lemon and spices, roasted until charred, then smothered in a cool minted yoghurt, tangy pickled red cabbage and fresh spinach. All wrapped in a freshly baked, pillowy soft garlic and herb naan. Prices start at £28.80 per week.

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia
12 of 14
CREDIT: Rick Stein

Stein's at-home delivery service sends customers a pre-prepared three-course meal for two people, packed full of stunning Cornish produce. Example starters include grilled scallops with hazelnut and coriander butter, moules mariniere and homemade mackerel pate with sourdough toast and fresh leaves. Mains include their signature Indonesian seafood curry with rice and a crisp green bean salad, a whole Lobster thermidor; and even a Ribeye steak from Cornish butcher Phillip Warren. Round things off with a classic Sticky toffee pudding with Cornish clotted cream or a chocolate pave. Available for national delivery from £35 for two people.

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia
13 of 14
CREDIT: Iberica

A veritable spread comes from Iberica restaurants, put together by Michelin starred chef, Nacho Manzano. The celebration box starts proceedings in true Spanish style with a selection of tapas, including bread and extra virgin olive oil speciality olives, pan con tomate, charcuterie, salads of anchovy adorned tomatoes and a cheese board of 5 Spanish cheeses. Main dishes include grilled octopus, tomato spiced prawns, and the centrepiece of a leg of milk fed lamb, herb-marinated and ready to finish at home. Dessert is a crowning Gloria Cheesecake. With simple instructions to finish preparing your meal, escaping the gloom of a winter's day via Asturia Spain can be delivered right to your door. Available for national delivery and local collection, £50 per person.

Healthy Meal Kits To Your Door - Grazia
14 of 14
CREDIT: London Gastro Boy

Ex Pétrus, Fera and Roganic Andy Bowler launched Indulge Dining last year - it's an exceptional fine dining meal kit delivery service offering not only Michelin star quality food, but also the ambiance: no styrofoam containers or lukewarm food in sight. Everything comes carefully packaged and with specific instructions, making it incredibly easy to recreate a restaurant-quality meal at home. This is a must get treat for a special occasion at home.

READ MORE: The Best Bikes For Women

READ MORE: Dr Rangan Chatterjee Shares His Method For Keeping Calm In Lockdown

READ MORE: A Comprehensive Guide To Supplements

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us