Rhiannon Lambert’s Tips to Support a Healthy Gut

Gut health has been the topic of recent discussion as research uncovers the influential role it may play in our overall health.1 Our gut contains trillions of bacteria which play an important role in the digestion of foods. Evidence has shown there are links between the gut microbiome and chronic disease, our immune system and even our mental health via the gut-brain axis.1,2

How does a vegetarian or vegan diet support our gut?

Vegetarian and vegan diets are often rich in variety, which is one of the best ways you can support your gut.3 This is because including foods rich in fibre can promote a greater diversity of bacteria, as different bacteria use these foods for important biological processes which can impact our digestion, immune system and mental health.2,4,5 Including a wide range of plant based foods such as beans, pulses, vegetables, wholegrains and meat alternatives is  an example of how you can enrich your diet for positive gut health.3 In fact, evidence has shown individuals who eat more than 30 plant-based foods per week have a wider diversity of bacteria in their gut!6

One of the most fundamental strengths of plant-based diets is the richness in fibre and prebiotic foods. Dietary fibre has not only been linked to gut bacteria diversity, but also a decreased risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes.3 In fact, the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) concluded that there is strong, probable evidence to suggest wholegrains and foods containing dietary fibre decrease colorectal cancer risk.7 Fibre also increases faecal bulk and decreases transit time and the current UK recommendation is to have at least 30g a day of fibre in our diets.3

Most prebiotics are non-digestible fibres that stimulate the growth of bacteria in the gut.8 They are what the bacteria in our gut can feed on, which is what makes them a beneficial component to our diet. Examples of prebiotic foods include garlic, onion, banana, and chicory root fibre which you can find in many plant-based dishes and plant-meat alternatives.9 Evidence has shown prebiotic foods are fermented in the colon by bacteria and converted to short-chain fatty acids like Butyrate, linked to gut functioning, the immune system, mood, and sleep.10

Vegetarian and vegan diets contain no red or processed meat, which evidence has indicated may negatively impact our gut health. The WCRF demonstrated there is strong evidence that processed and red meat are linked to colorectal cancer, and it is recommended to limit processed meat as much as possible and have no more than 350-500g of red meat a week.11 This suggests swapping meat for more plant-based meals may be beneficial for gut health.

Overall, there are a variety of reasons vegetarian and vegan diets may support our gut with more evidence emerging as time goes on. The takeaway message is to highlight the beneficial components of a diet that is rich in variety, fibre and lower in red and processed meat, and how this may positively impact our gut health and consequently our physical and mental health overall.

About the author:

Rhiannon Lambert is one of the UK’s leading nutritionists, a best-selling author, and chart-topping podcast host. In 2016 she founded Rhitrition, a renowned Harley Street clinic, which specialises in weight management, gut health, sports nutrition, eating disorders, and pre- and post-natal nutrition.

Rhiannon hosts the top-rated ‘Food for Thought’ podcast, which gives listeners practical, evidence-based advice on how to achieve a healthier lifestyle. With more than five million downloads since 2018, it is firmly established as one of the UK’s most popular health podcasts.

Follow Rhiannon on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube at @Rhitrition and visit Rhitrition.com

Rhiannon Lambert