So, here’s something slightly alarming: new research has revealed that two thirds of Kiwis experience gut-related issues, but most don’t recognise these as symptoms of poor gut health. And worse is that instead of seeking professional advice, the majority of Kiwis will opt to wait for their symptoms to pass. Ah yes, the ‘she’ll be right’ attitude strikes again.
In a nationally representative survey conducted by Pureprofile from 6 – 10 September 2021, 1,005 New Zealanders aged eighteen and over reflected on the state of their gut health. Two thirds (62.1%) of Kiwis suffer from concerns that are related to gut health, with the most common concerns including fatigue (34.2%), bloating (25.7%) and wind (24.6%).
However, just under half of Kiwis (48.7%) admit that they don’t recognise these symptoms as a result of poor gut health, which suggests further education is needed, a sentiment that in-house Naturopath for Good Health, Sharlene Ronayne, agrees with. We had a chat about some of the root causes of gut issues – and of course, what we can do about them.
Capsule: Sharlene, We hear so much about gut health – first of all, why is it so important to our overall health?
Sharlene: Interestingly, almost all of the consults I have with people can be linked back to gut health. The types of symptoms I discuss with clients, pharmacists and everyday Kiwis in my role match up to the results of our survey, with the likes of bloating, wind, fatigue and mood swings being common concerns.
The gut, otherwise known as your digestive system, is such an important part of your body. It’s here that your body digests and breaks down the foods you eat and absorbs key nutrients to fuel and maintain your body— but this basic process is only possible with a healthy digestive system offering good gut flora and healthy supportive immune cells.
Obviously, people are going through some tough times right now. Can stress play a part in your gut being out of whack?
A healthy gut also communicates with the brain through nerves and hormones, which helps maintain general health and well-being. So yes, your mood may very well be linked to the bacteria, or lack of, in your gut.
When asked what the most common triggers were for Kiwis when they were experiencing gut issues, over half (56%) reported that food was their biggest trigger. The next two most popular responses reveal that Kiwis recognise that their emotional state has an impact on their gut, with 39.5% indicating stress as their trigger followed by emotional upset (such as family or relationship troubles) at 23.5%.
How do you know that something is wrong with your gut?
Firstly—please don’t be afraid to talk about your symptoms. Getting expert advice and knowledge on how to manage your gut health on a daily basis, is a good place to start on the journey to easier digestion.
Secondly, it is important to note that feeling uncomfortable after eating is not a daily ‘normal’ you have to put up with, and that you can feel comfortable after eating, provided you supplement and support your diet with the necessary enzymes, prebiotics and probiotics. These support the digestive process that ensures food is digested and absorbed properly.
Thirdly and most importantly, check out for food triggers that contribute to your gut symptoms and always try to eat your meal sitting down where possible, as we digest better when relaxed.
Do Kiwis have a higher instance of gut-related issues than the average?
What was revealed in our recent Good Gut Guide survey was that two thirds (62.1%) of Kiwis suffer from concerns that are related to gut health, with the most common concerns including fatigue (34.2%), bloating (25.7%) and wind (24.6%). However, just under half of Kiwis (48.7%) admit that they don’t recognise these symptoms as a result of poor gut health, which suggests further education is needed.
This is on-par with what we’re seeing around the world, as epidemiologic studies have determined that 15–30% [LW1] of the general US population experience bloating symptoms.
A very common issue is Lactose intolerance: About 70 percent of adults globally do not produce enough of the enzyme that helps them digest milk and milk products. For people with lactose intolerance, eating dairy can cause significant discomfort, gas, bloating, and diarrhoea.
How do you get your gut back into shape?
For me personally, one of the most disturbing findings from our research was that almost two thirds of Kiwis (61.7%) don’t take any active steps to resolve their gut-related issues and instead opt for waiting for it to pass. And what’s more, only 4% of Kiwis say they’d consider speaking to a Naturopath or Nutritionist about their gut health.
I work as an in-house Naturopath for Good Health and spend most of my days speaking to Kiwis about their health in one-on-one phone consultations—but this also extends to speaking to the pharmacists and health store workers so that Kiwis can feel free to ask questions in-store about supplements. When in doubt, have a chat to a professional—whether that’s your Naturopath, Nutritionist, Pharmacist or Doctor.
I’ve been working to develop Good Health’s Good Gut Guide, a three-step programme based on research that works to cleanse, rebalance, and protect a health digestive function.