“Gut health” is a trending topic right now, but very few of us understand what gut health actually is and why it’s so important

Registered dietician Mpho Tshukudu says the frequency and the quality of your “number twos” can tell you a lot about your gut health.

READ MORE: What is gut microbiome testing?

What is gut health?

Gut health is the balance of micro-ecosystems that exist in our digestive systems. The digestive system is made up of more than just organs, there are microorganisms all through our digestive tracts that help us digest our food properly.

When our guts are healthy, we can digest food and absorb nutrients optimally without pain, discomfort and other related ailments like constipation and gas.

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Mpho says your toilet habits can say a lot about your gut health. Constipation is one of the many poop-related signs that your gut’s microbiome is out of balance.

Skip the laxatives, rather use the “food first” approach

According to Mpho, some South African women use laxatives or other herbal preparations to ease discomfort.

She advised that lifestyle changes, including paying attention to what you eat, is the preferred treatment plan. As a “food first” approach, Mpho suggests the following ways to improve gut health (which also supports immunity – bonus!).

  • Include prebiotics in your diet: onion, ginger and garlic as well as spices like black pepper, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and turmeric.

Try this Green Apple, Celery & Ginger Smoothie recipe

Green Apple, Celery & Ginger Smoothie recipe

  • Sprouting, soaking and fermenting grains, lentils, beans and vegetables will improve digestion and decrease flatulence and discomfort (think fermented sorghum and millet!). The discomfort is mostly from legumes though (beans and lentils). Mpho also explains that our bodies build up a tolerance to digesting legumes and that it’s important to eat them regularly (at least 3-4 times a week).

Try this Brussels Sprout & Lentil Bowl With Tahini Dressing recipe

Brussels Sprout & Lentil Bowl With Tahini Dressing recipe

  • Have more fruit with a high polyphenol content, like pomegranates, figs, blackberries and baobab.
  • Eat more vegetables and don’t shy away from traditional leaves like morogo, which is rich in nutrients and fibre. Mpho recommends using morogo in pesto and adding it to salads, soups and smoothies.
  • Reduce meat consumption and replace some meat proteins with more plant protein, like nuts and legumes.
  • Many South Africans are lactose intolerant, but tolerate fermented dairy foods, like maas and yoghurt, more easily. “Choosing a yoghurt containing a blend of bacterial strains, including a particular strain of Bifidus bacteria, helps to promote digestive comfort and wellbeing when consumed daily,” says Mpho. Activia yoghurt is an example, containing billions of live Bifidus ActiRegularis™ cultures, and has been shown to help improve digestive comfort.

Why yoghurt is great for your gut

If you’re looking to shake up your breakfast, Mpho recommends using yoghurt with billions of live Bifidus cultures (like Activia), topped with healthy homemade granola using local grains (popped sorghum) and nuts (like marula), add a grating of naartjie zest (it’s in season). She also recommends serving it with a dollop of homemade stewed apple sauce with lemon, cardamom, cinnamon and aniseed. Simple, enjoyable and gut healthy.

READ MORE: 3 Reasons you should have more dairy in your diet


While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.