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Experts name four 'healthy' dietary changes that could cause poor gut health

A radical and 'healthy' change to our diet could be causing poor gut health, experts have claimed.

Clinical dietician Elaine McGowan and consultant gastroenterologist Professor Barbara Ryan said that they have seen an unprecedented rise in the number of people coming forward with issues with their gut.

And to so-called Gut Experts claimed that around 20 per cent of these cases come from well-intentioned people accidentally making poor decisions in their diet.

They say that reducing your intake of wheat and lactose, or drastically increasing your fibre intake or even following a vegan diet could be impacting your gut health, the Mirror reports.

All of these changes to our lifestyle are often seen by many as ‘healthy’.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, the experts cited a young woman who started having digestive trouble after making “healthy” diet changes and working out more regularly.

After listening to what her new diet was composed of, they discovered she was eating vast quantities of fructans and fructose; spinach and kale smoothies and prune and date bowls.

“It was actually causing her bloating symptoms because she was eating too much fruit and fibre,” said Prof Ryan.

One woman said she had bloating symptoms because she was eating too much fruit and fibre (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

“We’ve all been told to feed our gut bacteria, which is a great thing to do for your overall health, but if you’re taking loads of fibre, your gut bacteria can be singing but your gut can be screaming,” added Elaine.

The experts recommend adopting an approach to increasing fibre that is low and slow; starting with a daily intake of 20g.

They also warned about the hidden dangers of strictly following dietary rules.

Prof Ryan explained: “We’re seeing a lot more people eating very rigid diets and yet they are not feeling great. They’re cutting out more and more things because they’re trying to manage their gut symptoms but going about it the wrong way.”

What starts as trying to eat a little more healthily can lead to trying to eliminate sugars and eat less saturated fats.

Prof Ryan told the Daily Telegraph: “That moves on quite quickly to more restrictive diet regimes, such as eliminating dairy and wheat.”

Elaine explained that a big part of the problem is plant-based regimes.

She added: “I think if people want to do the plant-based thing for moral or ethical reasons, then OK, but if it’s for perceived health benefits? We personally don’t believe it’s a more healthy approach.”

Crunching the numbers on what you would need to eat to get your iron and calcium requirements from a purely vegan diet, worked out to be three bowls of kale, 18 tablespoons of lentils and 75 almonds a day, claims Elaine.

“You have to really try really hard to meet all your nutritional requirements and that’s difficult to do without eating a lot of bloating foods,” added Prof Ryan.

The Gut Experts advise the following to reset your gut health:

  • Slow down your eating: digestion begins with enzymes in the mouth. It’s important to chew your food. Also eating fast can cause you to swallow air
  • Leave the carbonated drinks: these can add gas to the abdominal area and create distention
  • Don’t graze: give your gut a rest between meals. When you fast for four hours or so you get something called the housekeeping wave, when your tummy rumbles from hunger. This migrating motor complex is really important for clearing out bacteria debris and helps our bowels move
  • It takes about two to three hours for solid foods to get through your stomach into your gut, and an hour for liquids. Avoid lying down until then.
The experts claimed that a vegan diet is not as healthy as people make them out to be (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

How do I know if my gut health is suffering?

According to Bupa, poor gut health symptoms could be anything from tummy pain, bloating or a headache.

"Keeping a food and symptom diary is a great tool to help you identify allergies and intolerances to certain foods," says the health body.

It adds: "It can also help you to understand what makes an existing condition worse, such as irritable bowel syndrome ( IBS ) or migraines."