Why it’s time to listen to your gut

Why it’s time to listen to your gut | Soho House

Linked to increased mental and physical wellbeing, caring for it is anything but a passing fad

Wednesday 25 January 2023   By Chloe Lawrance

As the old saying goes: trust your gut. Because when it comes to your physical and mental wellbeing, it has a lot to answer for. 

We’ve known for hundreds of years that what goes in (and out) of your gut has an impact on your health. What is new, however, is an increased awareness of that impact, with the TikTok hashtag #guthealth banking 3.2 billion views, and the digestive health market estimated to be worth a whopping £71.95bn by 2027. So, why is it so important to start listening to your gut?

Why it’s time to listen to your gut | Soho House

Back to basics
The gut refers to the gastrointestinal tract: ‘The passageway of our digestive system that starts in our mouth and ends in the anus,’ explains Dana Ariele Chwatt, Soho House member and holistic health coach. At over 30 feet long, this GI tract contains our oesophagus, stomach, intestines, and gut microbiome. 

‘The microbiome is essentially the ecosystem living in the gut. When we talk about gut health, we’re referring to that microbiome,’ says Chwatt. ‘A healthy gut is one that is full of diverse strains of “good” bacteria, most of which are housed inside our large intestine.’

Spotting an unhealthy gut
An imbalance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in your gut can cause dysbiosis. For people with digestive disorders such as IBS, preventing this is a somewhat complex affair; for the rest of us, we’re just looking to nurture that good bacteria. Telltale signs of an imbalance include skin issues (like psoriasis, acne or dandruff), digestive discomfort (such as indigestion, bloating, constipation or acid reflux) and chronic headaches or sinus infections.

‘Our gut houses more than 70% of our immune system,’ adds Chwatt. ‘If you find yourself getting a winter cold or flu over and over again, your gut health could be in part to blame.’

The mind-gut connection
An emerging area of research into gut health revolves around the mind-gut connection – and for good reason.

‘Our gut and brain have a physical connection via the vagus nerve,’ explains Lisa Macfarlane, Soho House member, cofounder of The Gut Stuff and host of TV series Know Your S**t: Inside Our Guts. ‘We used to think that nerve was just used for our mind to speak to our gut, but we’re now starting to realise it’s a two-way system, and there are actually more signals that go from your gut to your brain than the other way.’

‘There’s that physical vagus nerve, but your brain and gut are also actually connected chemically through neurotransmitters,’ adds Macfarlane. ‘In fact, up to 95% of our serotonin is made in our gut.’

Caring for your gut health
Both Chwatt and Macfarlane recommend going back to basics, tuning into your body and focusing on the key tenets of maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. 

‘Fibre feeds the good bacteria, but nine out of 10 of us aren’t getting enough,’ says Macfarlane. ‘Aim for around 30 grams a day. It’s not sexy or cool, but we need to bring fibre back.’

‘Hydration is essential. We also need to be getting a diverse range of foods in; 30 different plants a week is the number to hit,’ she recommends. ‘It seems quite high, but that could include various colours of vegetables, like green peppers, red peppers, and yellow peppers. That also includes herbs, nuts and seeds.’

Destressing is best 
Strengthening your vagus nerve and preventing time spent in ‘fight or flight’ mode is key for looking after your gut. Consider long-term stress management techniques (why not reward yourself with some much-needed relaxation at one of our Cowshed spas?) and try to eat in a more mindful way, too. Macfarlane recommends taking three deep breaths before you eat each meal in order to put your body into ‘rest and digest’ mode, and allow your gut to do the thing it does best.

In need of some R&R? Use our Mind, Body & Soho offer to get 25% off your bedroom rate on a Soho House spa break.