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.


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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!

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