A gut expert tells us what to eat for better sleep and to feel happier

Nutritionist Jenna Hope tells us how to eat to become happier, healthier and well-rested

Man and a woman highlight their good gut health practises
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Our gut health isn't just about feeling, erm, regular. Our gut is the health gateway to the rest of our body. The phrase "you are what you eat" is there for a reason: we eat good food and drink lots of water, we feel good. We eat bad, highly processed food and drink lots of artificially-sweet soda, we feel bad. 

We can get some assistance with supplements, such as the best fish oil supplements (rich in anti-inflammatory healthy fats) and our best vitamins list. However, it's important to get lots of good whole foods in as well, as nutritionist Jenna Hope tells us. In the video below, filmed exclusively for our Instagram channel, Hope breaks down just why the gut is so influential on our health, especially our sleep and our mental health. 

Check out the vid below, along with some of Hope's expert tips.

Watch: Nutritionist Jenna Hope talk all things gut health

Why our gut health is so important

Hope says the function of our gut “is really crucial for supporting things like hormone production, especially when it comes to the sleep hormone serotonin and the happy hormone melatonin. They are predominantly secreted and absorbed in the gut.

 “We need to make sure our gut is healthy to secrete those hormones, absorb them into the bloodstream and use them around the body.”  

An unhealthy gut won't be as effective when it comes to producing and using those hormones, which means we could be happier and sleeping better. The gut talks to the brain through the body's vagus nerve, so if you're not eating enough of the good stuff, your brain won't receive its regular dose of hormones. 

What to eat to improve gut health

When it comes to gut health, Hope says fibre is king. “Bacteria in the gut essentially eat and metabolise fibre. Fibre allows them to produce short-chain fatty acids, which play a really big role in supporting immunity, hormone production, mental well-being et cetera.”

It’s recommended to consume around 30g of fibre per day. Beans and pulses, nuts and seeds, fruits, vegetables and whole grains are all really good sources of fibre, and it's easy to make simple diet switches to increase your fibre intake. 

Hope recommends swapping out cookies, chips and other unhealthy snacks with fibrous fruit, roasted chickpeas, or carrot sticks with hummus dip. Prebiotic-rich foods like yoghurts with live cultures, kombucha, fermented foods like sourdough and kimchi help your gut to thrive. 

Drinking water is also vitally important for your gut. Keep one of our best water bottles by your desk as a consistent reminder that diet and water intake will improve your mental and physical well-being, as well as help you sleep sounder. 

Matt Evans
Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and Channel Editor at Fit&Well. He's previously written for titles like Men's Health and Red Bull, and covers all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen kickboxer and runner. His top fitness tip? Stretch.