December 21, 2020
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In recent years the topic of gut health has become more and more popular. But what exactly is this referring to, and how can we improve this area of our life?
Gut health refers to the condition and function of the gastrointestinal tract. Problems can arise in the gastrointestinal tract leading to persistent symptoms, such as abdominal pain, unusual weight loss, jaundice, and bloody stools. Making certain lifestyle changes and taking the right medications can help improve the function of one’s gastrointestinal tract.
With this brief explanation in mind, let’s cover the details.
What is gut health?
The topic of gut health has gained much traction within the last couple of years. The reason is believed to be around researchers discovering connections between the health of one’s gastrointestinal tract and the rest of their body.
And with roughly 60-70 million people suffering from digestive diseases, it is important to have a clear understanding of gut health.
In short, gut health refers to the function and bacterial balance of the digestive system. You see, in order for our bodies to digest food properly, multiple organs have to work correctly. These organs include the esophagus, stomach, intestines, pancreas, gallbladder, and liver.
We must pay careful attention to the health of our digestive system because it is the main way we get the nutrients we need. After we consume food, it is broken down so that it can be absorbed into the bloodstream, which allows for the nutrients to be delivered throughout the body.
There needs to be a balance of certain bacteria and microorganisms in the digestive system. This is often referred to as one’s gut microbiome. If there is an imbalance of bacteria, lack of communication between organs, or another problem, then our body may not be able to get the nutrients it needs.
With this at the forefront of our minds, let’s discuss how our gut health affects other aspects of our health.
How your gut affects your health
As mentioned above, researchers and medical professionals have become more aware of how your gut health and microbiome affect other areas of your health. Here is a list of possible conditions that can be caused by an unhealthy gut.
Signs of an unhealthy gut
If we listen to our body, then we may be able to notice the signs and symptoms of poor gut health. Here are some signs to look for.
Persistent discomfort in the abdomen, such as bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn, can indicate an imbalance in the gut.
Experiencing changes or fluctuations in your weight without making changes to your diet or exercise routine can be a sign of an unhealthy gut. Weight loss may indicate SIBO (mentioned above), and weight gain may be a sign of insulin resistance or prediabetes.
Most of our serotonin levels are produced in the digestive tract. Serotonin plays a major role in our mood and sleep patterns. Therefore, poor gut health can lead to insomnia and disrupted sleep, which can contribute to fatigue during the day.
Inflammation of the gut may cause a leaky gut, in which bacteria and toxins get into the bloodstream. This can lead to inflammation throughout the body, causing a reaction from the immune system, which can lead to skin conditions like eczema.
Gut health can affect the responses of the immune system. If you have an unhealthy gut that causes inflammation, it may cause the immune system to begin attacking itself, leading to autoimmune conditions.
The balance of bacteria in our gut is what helps digest the food we eat. If there is an improper amount of good bacteria, then we may have trouble digesting certain foods, triggering a response. This response can include gas, bloating, stomach pain, or diarrhea.
How to improve your gut health
If you believe that you may have an unhealthy gut, then there is no need to worry. There are some ways to improve your gut health naturally. Here are some steps you can take.
Since poor food choices can cause a decreased amount of good bacteria in our gut, leading to inflammation, we must have a balanced diet. This means incorporating an appropriate mix of leafy green vegetables and lean protein. Foods that are high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids are important to have in your diet.
Foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, tempeh, kombucha, and pickles are loaded with probiotics. These foods can aid in the digestion process, as well as boost your immune system. This will help prevent gas, bloating, and an upset stomach.
Eating slower, as well as smaller meals more frequently will give your body enough time to digest food properly. This means that the food can be digested fully, allowing all the nutrients to be absorbed, preventing discomfort during digestion.
Prebiotic and probiotic supplements can help improve your gut health. It is important to note that not all probiotics are the same, and some do not have the proper ingredients or potency to provide benefits. You should look for probiotics that have lactobacilli and bifidobacterial. This can strengthen your digestive tract and immune system.
Exercising regularly gets your blood flowing and triggers the gastrointestinal tract to function properly. Exercise also reduces stress, which promotes good bacteria.
Smoking allows toxins to enter the bloodstream, which kills beneficial bacteria in your gut. It also causes disruptions in your immune system and can trigger inflammation throughout the body, potentially causing health problems.
High levels of stress can impact your gut microbiome negatively. Ways to lower your stress may include meditation, walking, and spending time with friends and family.
We often take for granted how important sleep is. Getting enough sleep is crucial for keeping our immune systems working properly. Also, setting a sleep schedule will help you stop the late-night snacking. This will give your digestive tract the rest it needs so that it can work properly throughout the day.
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