Suzanne is one of those fabulous people whose lived experience has given her a purpose that has morphed into a career and calling. There are a few people like Suzanne in Brighton. Those lucky enough to have made their passion their career. Suzanne’s journey isn’t all about luck though. In fact, it was her struggle with IBS that has led her to found the Happy Gut Co.
Suzanne developed IBS following the birth of her twins, a time when she had immense responsibility and being in physical discomfort so often just wasn’t going to be acceptable. Yet, medically speaking there was, Suzanne’s doctor informed her, nothing that could be done. So Suzanne took matters in to her own hand and delved into the world of food and its effect on the gut, learning much in the process about how she could manage her own IBS.
Through this experience, Suzanne also began to understand how her former high-pressured lifestyle might have contributed to poor gut health long before childbirth catapulted it into full-blown IBS. Suzanne learnt that food had the power to make both her gut and her mind feel good after formulating a plant-based diet that was gentle on her sensitive tummy and she found herself wanting to help others. Now, Happy Gut Co offer Supper Club Experiences, Happy Gut and Mind Workshops and a very exciting initiative in primary schools launching very soon.
So, what do Harriets Of Hove and Suzanne have in common? Well, we’re both super passionate about plant-based eating and we’re obsessed with whole foods, which has led to an exciting collaboration in the form of our plastic-free Recipe Boxes. Suzanne is responsible for the delicious recipes in our boxes, each of which is not only proper scrummy but also focuses on enhancing gut health. We caught up with Suzanne and asked her to share her top tips for gut health. Here’s what IBS expert, plant-based promoter, mother of three and business owner Suzanne Goldenberg-Shove had to tell us about her top tips for gut health.
Suzanne’s Top Tips For Gut Health
First, Look To Fibre
Fibre is one of the most underrated food groups and yet it’s so important. If you’re after a digestive system that works like magic then fibre is your magic wand. We need 30gs every day, but most of us are only getting 20g.
Whilst many of us associate fibre with bread and whole grains, there’s actually a lot of fibre in fruit, as well as lentils, beans and broccoli. If you can get some fibre into your breakfast then that’s an excellent wake up for your gut and fibre will aid the slow release of energy throughout the morning.
When you’re struggling with indigestion, first look to fibre and see if you can increase your intake.
Emotional Wellbeing and Exercise
Ever joke that you’re led by your stomach? It may not be far from the truth. Over the past few years, scientists have been amazed at how much goes on in the gut and just how many signals are passed back and forth from gut to brain. This does not mean that our thoughts are coming from our stomachs. However, indications sparked by a complex nerve network in our gut drives some of our decisions and drastically affects chemical balance. Clearly, our emotional state and stress levels affect our digestion but did you know this can work the other way around too? Meaning our gut health has an effect on our emotional well-being.
The brain and gut are most connected through the vagus nerve and one study has indicated that decreased function in the vagus nerve is more common in IBS sufferers and those with Crohn’s disease.
The good news is that there are many natural ways to stimulate the vagus nerve including deep breathing practises, probiotics and regular exercise.
As a result of our nervous system being so connected through the brain and gut, our hormones play a vital role in gut health. 50% of the dopamine we produce is made in the gut and this hormone is responsible for transporting the feeling of happiness around our body. Keeping our body happy is a great way to reduce stress which has a massive effect on calming the gut. Exercise is an excellent way to release dopamine which is why exercise is not only important for heart health, weight management and physical strength, but also for our emotional wellbeing and therefore our gut health.
The Wonder Of Water
Very few of us are drinking enough water and it’s so important to be hydrated. I’ve always thought it odd that our bodies aren’t as good at telling us when we need to drink as they are at letting us know if we’re hungry. Yet so much that feels off during the day can come down to being dehydrated. It can make us tired, fatigued even. We can get headaches and our body can start to feel sluggish. A dehydrated brain also finds it very hard to focus which can cause stress which, as cited above, can have a very negative effect on our gut.
We may be replacing water with tea and coffee, juices and other drinks. We won’t go into what’s not so great about sugary or caffeinated drinks here because what’s important is we know that it’s not about how good or bad they are, it’s about how they’re simply not as good as water.
I recommend getting yourself a metal water bottle which is far better at keeping water cool and try to drink and refill it at least twice per day. Keep it on your desk, take it out with you and always have water at the dinner table.
Being well hydrated is going to help your gut function and drinking plenty of water each day will also help us stay healthy and energised.
Diversify Your Supply
Our gut microbes are so vast and varied and they all need different nutrients, which is why our food sources should be just as vast and varied.
As part of the toxic diet culture which has bred for far too long in our society, we have become so used to the idea that the secret to weight loss and a healthy diet is in cutting out certain foods. That’s why most fad diets are based on eliminating a food group or two. We’re led to believe that by labelling food ‘good’ and ‘bad’ we can create the perfect diet. However, the perfect diet cannot be about less, it should always be about more!
As our body needs so many nutrients we need to ensure we’re feeding it with plenty of different types of food. We can’t all be nutritionists and it can admittedly get a bit complicated, so the biggest indication that we’re eating a diverse pallet of foods is to ‘eat the rainbow’. Different coloured foods usually showcase different nutritional qualities. Green leafy vegetables, bright flower coloured fruits and rich coloured spices are important. However, it’s not just the flashy colours we need to be on the lookout for. It’s also important to ensure we’re getting a mix of brown, black and white grains. So don’t always go for red lentils, try brown. Tricoloured quinoa can be a great alternative to couscous and although wholemeal rice is good for us, sometimes opting for white rice can give our gut a boost. Eating seasonably is also a brilliant guide for giving our bodies what we need and when.
When you think of keeping your gut microbes happy, imagine them as an army with each soldier having different nutritional requirements and preferences. Help them to stay strong and energised by making your diet diverse and colourful.
Find Your Flavours
Although it’s important to keep your diet diverse it’s also essential to enjoy your food. Particularly for those who move to a more plant-based diet, it can be challenging to ensure your food is flavoursome enough. So stock up on your herbs and spices and get to know your pallet preferences.
One of the best things you can do for your gut is to avoid processed foods. This is because processed foods make it very tricky to know what we are eating as there are so many added ingredients. By moving to a whole foods diet we can keep an eye on what we’re consuming and the effect it has on our gut – good and bad. However, it does mean it’s often up to us to add the flavour.
The best way to learn about and discover our flavour preferences is to follow some good recipes for a while. Doing so will not only introduce you to new foods but will also teach you flavour combinations and techniques that you can apply in your cooking.
Not a confident cook? Why not try one or two of our recipe boxes? These are nutritionally balanced, plant-based and the packaging is plastic-free. They’ll also feed the whole family! I’ve created each recipe to be good for your gut and super easy to make.