Masterchef Sanjeev Kapoor and Holistic Health Expert Luke Coutinho share insights on taking care of your gut

The gravity of good gut health in the prevention of both mental and physical diseases shouldn’t be ignored. Masterchef Sanjeev Kapoor and holistic expert Luke Coutinho tell Tsunami Costabir all about it.  

A healthy gut microbiome is not something to take for granted. Experts are slowly realising the magnitude good gut health has on a host of diseases – both mental and physical. The Sanjeev Kapoor Academy is a platform for experts to share much-needed information with people who need help or are curious to learn. They have launched the Good Gut Program in collaboration with holistic nutrition and integrative lifestyle medicine expert Luke Coutinho. 

We had the opportunity to ask these successful men about the course, and understand why we need to focus on gut health and what it is that we can do.

In conversation with celebrated Chef Sanjeev Kapoor…

What inspired you to start this new course for better gut health?

I have always believed that sharing knowledge makes one a better professional. At the Sanjeev Kapoor Academy, we want to create a larger platform for sharing. So we have curated a series where we invite top professionals in their fields to share their knowledge and learnings with you. 

Today’s fast-paced life adds stress, and that can lead to poor gut health. Poor food choices, like excessively refined food, fizzy drinks, eating at irregular hours, skipping meals, and irrational diets can all lead to poor gut health. So, the first in the series is about health, and it starts with good gut health. With this course, we have integrated medicine with lifestyle and food. This course covers the science of the gut, why we need to clean it, what foods nourish it, and what food is bad for it.

Who do you think this course will benefit the most, and how?

Everybody. Most of us are living sedentary lifestyles, we overindulge at times, neglect our health by consuming foods that are not good for the gut, and hardly exercise. We want to show you how to make simple, inexpensive lifestyle changes to build extraordinary gut health.

Did you know poor gut health is also responsible for depression and anxiety? A good digestive system truly holds the key to overall health. Very few people know this, let alone understand this and so complain of bloating, acidity, constipation, inflammation, weak immunity and low energy. That is how important gut health is, and I really wish that more people realise this sooner. 

What simple changes or additions can people make to their diets for better gut health? 

Avoid sugars and fizzy drinks, and eat natural foods. This reduces the burden of toxins. It is important to eat food that is cooked properly. Also, remember to chew your food properly, not eat fast, and ideally, not talk while having food as we inhale air that makes us feel bloated.  

Another important thing, besides diet, is to stay happy. Focus on emotional wellness too. When you eat in a joyful state of mind, food breaks down easily and is absorbed better too.  

While doing all this, maintain balance, follow a good sleep and eating rhythm, enjoy food in moderation and most importantly, be disciplined in all that you do.

What is your go-to recipe to reduce inflammation in the gut?

Try to understand what causes inflammation of the gut. It could be genetics, allergy to certain foods, your way of eating food, timing, sleep patterns, an inactive lifestyle and everything that has to do with your intake of food.   

Very often, inflammation is due to dehydration and the formation of acids, leading to ulcers. Fermented drinks are best for gut health. I would recommend a simple rice kanji, or you can have gajar ki kanji. It is a simple, flavourful, probiotic drink that regulates bowel movement and prevents constipation. 

What are some foods that promote good gut health?

There are two very important factors responsible for good gut health. You must have heard a lot about probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics have been a part of our daily diet for centuries. Probiotics are good bacteria that keep the gut healthy. You can count yoghurt or yoghurt-based preparations such as raitas or dips, chaas or lassi and other dairy products as probiotics too. Then there are fermented kanjis or even simple rice kanji that are great for gut health. 

You also need prebiotics which help probiotics grow and thrive. Spinach, garlic, onions, beans, oats, berries, bananas and apples are some foods from which you can get your fix of prebiotics. So, now you know why onions are served at meals. Among condiments, pickles are a good prebiotic too. Also, whole grains and lean meats are great for good gut health. 

Apart from food, how important are factors like water and other beverages in promoting good gut health?

The simplest way you can take steps towards keeping your gut clean is by drinking enough water. Water is needed to give volume, while fibres move the waste out of the body. It makes the stools softer, preventing constipation. Water and healthy liquids help break down food so that the body absorbs nutrients easily. 

Among other drinks, fermented coconut water, probiotic lemonade, chaas, apple cider vinegar, probiotic juices, and kombucha, if it suits you, will help populate the microbiome after a meal.

Holistic nutrition and integrative lifestyle medicine expert Luke Coutinho shares his thoughts…

What was your thought process behind this collaboration with Masterchef Sanjeev Kapoor?

Scientists and researchers are now calling the gut our second brain. Beyond immunity, your gut microbiome also has the power to affect your emotions – from happiness, sadness and depression to anxiety and more. The gut-brain axis is real. How you eat, move, sleep and think are all factors that come into play in maintaining the delicate balance between good and bad gut bacteria. Any imbalance leads to gut dysbiosis. One in two people I consult today struggle with gut issues like acidity, bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain, constipation, IBS and diarrhea, among others. Through the Good Gut Program, Chef Sanjeev Kapoor and I want to empower people to rebuild their guts with the right knowledge, nutrition and lifestyle tips. 

What is the duration of this programme, and how will it help people to improve their gut and immunity?

The Good Gut Program is a four-week long programme, during which an individual will have access to five exclusive meal plans and 50+ recipes, along with tips on addressing constipation, bloating and acidity at their root. At the end of four weeks, one gets access to bonus content on how gut health plays a role in boosting hair growth. Once you sign up for the course, all material is available and accessible to the individual for the next 365 days. 

What are some early signs of poor gut health in people?

Early signs of poor gut health could range from a simple headache to hair fall. Some of the early signs include:

  • Dull skin, skin breakouts 
  • Dull hair, hair fall
  • Low energy levels  
  • Frequent colds and cough (low immunity)
  • Brain fog and confusion
  • Sour burps
  • Excessive smelly farts 
  • Intolerance to foods that your body was okay with earlier 
  • Bloating 
  • Abdominal pain
  • Undigested particles of food in stools

What simple changes or additions can people make in their lives for better gut health?

Bring diversity to your plate: Eat a varied and diverse diet; the best way to do that is to add more colours. Make sure your plate includes different coloured fruits and vegetables like greens, blue, red, purple, yellow, orange and so on. Diversity in the diet means diversity in the gut microbiome.

Chew well: The simple act of chewing can bring a marked difference in your gut health. Chewing is an important step in digestion that most people skip. 

Incorporate prebiotics and probiotics: Prebiotics are foods that help feed the good bacteria in the gut, while probiotics are live bacteria that can help support a healthy gut microbiome. Foods like bananas, garlic, onions and leeks are rich in prebiotics, while fermented foods like yoghurt and kefir contain probiotics.

Fasting: Even a 12-hour sunset-to-sunrise fast can benefit our gut. Fasting allows a complete break to our digestive system, which is otherwise not possible if we are constantly grazing and nibbling. 

Learn to manage stress: Stress can have a negative impact on gut health since our mind and gut are so intricately connected. Learn ways to manage your stress, whether it is by pursuing a hobby, listening to music, journaling, deep belly breathing, or simply expressing your emotions to a loved one. 

With that said, it is important to remember that everyone’s gut is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. Listen to your body and make changes that work for you and your unique gut health needs.

How does gut health influence a person’s physical and mental health?

Our gut and brain are BFFs! They are constantly communicating with each other through what is known as the gut-brain axis. This connection sends signals between the gut and the brain, influencing both physical and mental health.

Studies have shown that the health of the gut microbiome can have a significant impact on the health of the mind. A healthy gut microbiome can help regulate mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve overall well-being. Conversely, a disrupted gut microbiome has been linked to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.

Research has also shown that the gut microbiome produces neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, that play a role in regulating mood, sleep and appetite. Additionally, the gut microbiome can influence the production and regulation of hormones that impact mental health, such as cortisol and oxytocin. It is also believed that the gut microbiome can affect the permeability of the gut lining, which can impact the absorption of nutrients and contribute to inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked to depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems.

Overall, the gut-brain axis highlights the importance of maintaining a healthy gut microbiome for overall physical and mental health and well-being. This is precisely why all mental health professionals and psychiatrists must look at gut health too during their counselling sessions. One cannot keep gut health out of the equation! 

What are some key factors that cause disruption in gut health?

Several key factors can cause disruptions in gut health. Some of the common ones are:

Diet: A diet that is high in processed foods, sugar and unhealthy fats can lead to an imbalance in gut bacteria, leading to gut dysbiosis.

Overuse of antibiotics: While antibiotics can be life-saving at times, mindless use of them can disrupt the balance in our gut microbiome, as they can kill both harmful and beneficial bacteria. This is why we recommend someone on an antibiotic course also add a probiotic and a B-complex so the microbiome is replenished. 

Stress: Chronic stress has been shown to impact gut health and can lead to gut dysbiosis, inflammation, decreased gut motility, and increased gut permeability.

Lack of sleep: Sleep deprivation has been shown to impact gut health and can lead to an imbalance in gut bacteria, decreased gut motility, and increased gut permeability.

Chronic constipation and acidity: Constipation and acidity are common but not normal. While people often learn to live with it, we must realize the damage it causes to our gut. Every time fecal waste is retained in our system, there is an increased risk of inflammation, toxicity and hormonal imbalance. These issues must be addressed from their roots because both acidity and constipation are linked to diseases ranging from IBS to ulcerative colitis to even cancer.  

What are some absolute no-nos for people suffering from poor gut health?

If you have poor gut health, there are several foods and practices that should be avoided in order to support gut healing and promote a healthy gut microbiome:

Processed foods: Processed foods are often high in sugar, unhealthy fats and artificial ingredients that can disrupt gut health and lead to gut dysbiosis.

Gluten: For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can lead to more inflammation and disrupt gut health.

Dairy: For people with lactose intolerance or a dairy allergy, consuming dairy can lead to gut inflammation and disrupt gut health.

Alcohol: Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can disrupt gut health by killing off beneficial bacteria and promoting the growth of harmful bacteria.

Artificial sweeteners: Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and sucralose, have been shown to disrupt gut health and lead to gut dysbiosis.

Caffeine: Consuming large amounts of caffeine can disrupt gut health by increasing gut motility and promoting gut dysbiosis.

It’s important to remember that everyone is different and may have different dietary needs based on their gut health.

How can individuals monitor and improve their gut health through at-home methods?

There are several ways individuals can monitor and improve their gut health through at-home methods:

Keep a food diary: Keeping a food diary can help individuals identify foods that may be triggering gut symptoms and causing gut dysbiosis.

Increase fibre intake: A high-fibre diet can help promote the growth of beneficial bacteria and support gut health. Good sources of fibre include fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.

Incorporate fermented foods: Incorporating fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi into your diet can help promote the growth of beneficial bacteria and support gut health.

Reduce stress: Managing stress through activities such as exercise, meditation or deep breathing can help support gut health by reducing gut inflammation and promoting gut motility.

Get enough sleep: Getting adequate sleep is important for overall health and can help support gut health by reducing gut inflammation and promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria.

Avoid antibiotics whenever possible: Antibiotics can kill both harmful and beneficial bacteria, leading to gut dysbiosis. If antibiotics are necessary, consider taking a probiotic supplement to help support the growth of beneficial bacteria.

Take a probiotic supplement: Probiotic supplements can help support the growth of beneficial bacteria and improve gut health. It’s important to choose a high-quality probiotic supplement and speak with a doctor or registered dietitian to determine the best approach for individual needs.

Learning to take better care of our bodies, acknowledging their complexities, and celebrating the harmony and interconnectedness of their parts is a necessary indulgence. Treat yourself right; treat your gut right! 

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