Why Is it Important to Support Your Gut Health?
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Have you ever wondered what the term "gut health" means and why it has been a popular topic in the past few years? On top of playing a significant role in digestion, the gut is essential for the health of your whole body.
The food you eat is converted by your digestive system into a form circulated throughout the body via the bloodstream. Unfortunately, difficulties can arise throughout this process, from severe digestive disorders to food intolerances that impair your body's ability to absorb nutrients from food.
Problems emerge when you don't take good care of what you eat, and your gut becomes unhealthy.
If you want to learn about how to improve your gut health, keep reading.
What is gut health?
Okay, so what exactly is gut health? Gut health refers to the condition of the entire digestive tract. This means the gut covers all body parts involved in food intake and output, including the mouth, stomach, esophagus, small intestine, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, colon, and rectum.
The digestive system converts food into the nutrients our bodies need to function.
Different colonies of microorganisms work in the stomach to break down food into more digestible forms. Each area of the gut has a specific function.
The “population” of these colonies is directly influenced by your diet. According to research, a diet heavy in fat or sugar stimulates bacteria that eat nutrients. On another side, a diet high in fiber supports bacteria that reside further down in the gut.
So, keep in mind that what you eat impacts your gut bacteria and affects which bacteria thrive and which ones go.
The importance of gut health
The importance of the stomach for your health and the well-being of your entire body has already been mentioned. But why and how?
When your gut functions correctly, the gut wall that provides a barrier keeps “bad” bacteria, viruses, and fungi from entering the bloodstream.
But unfortunately, the barrier becomes permeable when the gut quits functioning correctly, meaning that all the viruses and fungi can enter the bloodstream and lead to an unhealthy gut or more issues.
Although bacteria and other microorganisms (e.g., viruses and fungi) are frequently considered the cause of disease, many play an essential part in maintaining your health. Your body contains trillions of microorganisms, most of which are good for you. But more about this is down below.
Gut permeability must be prevented as it increases your vulnerability to illness or infection. Suppose you struggle with conditions including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and celiac disease. In that case, you are at a higher risk of developing gut permeability.
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About your microbiome
"Microbiome" refers to the entire collection of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that inhabit humans. The skin, mouth, throat, stomach, colon, uterus, ovarian follicles, prostate, lungs, ears, and eyes are just a few places where these bacteria can be found.
Gut flora, also known as good and harmful bacteria, is present in the microbiome. Good bacteria consume both soluble and insoluble fiber found in the food you eat.
However, the components in simple sweets and processed foods are what the harmful bacteria live on.
Your body and microbiome work together to make other substances your body may need. Your body takes in all these microbes, digests them, and then produces these other substances.
How can you tell if your gut is healthy or unhealthy?
Numerous indicators can be used to determine a healthy gut, including the frequency at which you pass stools and the duration it takes for food to travel through your body. Also, consistent energy, a normal amount of gas, and bloating can indicate that your gut is healthy.
Did you know that nearly 70 million Americans yearly suffer from digestive disorders, including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? This means that they most likely struggle with their gut health.
Some symptoms of an unhealthy gut are:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loose stools
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Even though some additional, slightly less evident symptoms might not seem related to your gut health, they can be reliable signs of gut issues. Some of them include the following:
- Difficulty sleeping or continuous tiredness
According to research, a gut bacterial imbalance may contribute to short sleep duration and fragmented sleep, resulting in chronic tiredness. Although the exact reason is unknown, it is related to inflammation, metabolic activity, and mental wellness.
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- Skin irritations
There may be a connection between certain types of gut bacteria and skin diseases, such as psoriasis. Lower levels of helpful bacteria may affect your body's immune system.
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- Unintentional weight changes
Weight changes without a change in food or exercise routine could indicate a problem with your digestive system. An unbalanced gut can hamper your body's capacity to absorb nutrients, control blood sugar, and store fat.
- Breath problems/halitosis
Since the mouth is the entrance to the gastrointestinal tract, it is natural that symptoms of poor gut health would influence it. You should be aware that bad breath can indicate something wrong elsewhere in the digestive system.
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What should you eat to maintain a healthy gut?
The gut microbiome, which is made of more than 100 trillion beneficial and harmful bacteria, is greatly influenced by what you eat. In an environment where the composition of the stomach is out of balance, you may be more prone to illnesses and infections.
According to a study, fiber is a nutrient derived from plants that lower the risk of metabolic illnesses by promoting the diversity and proliferation of healthy bacteria in the gut. The fiber in sweet potatoes, spinach, beets, carrots, and fennel is naturally gut-beneficial. Whole grains are another excellent source of fiber in addition to fruits and vegetables.
Choose a variety of plant-based foods to eat. The bacteria population in a healthy gut is diverse, and each has specific nutritional preferences. Avoid eating a lot of processed food - "bad" microorganisms are frequently found in them.
Fermented foods with probiotics, such as yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha, are coveted for their capacity to strengthen the gut. Yogurt may relieve digestive issues such as diarrhea, inflammatory bowel illness, and constipation. According to a study, people who regularly consume yogurt have higher levels of gut-healthy bacteria lactobacilli. They also have lower levels of enterobacterium, a type of bacteria linked to inflammation.
Both "evil" and "good" bacteria are killed by antibiotics. If you require antibiotics, be careful to follow them up with many foods that feed your “good” microorganisms.
Making minor dietary adjustments now can have a significant impact later. Consider keeping a food record and taking the time to analyze it daily before being required to change your diet to improve your digestive health.
How to heal your gut?
Taking care of your gut is significantly important, so here are some effective methods to do it:
- Lower your stress levels.
Finding techniques to manage your stress and mental health may help you eliminate unpleasant GI symptoms and restore balance to your body.
Some ways to help you reduce stress include: going for a walk; getting a massage; spending time with friends, family, or a pet; practicing yoga, or using essential oils.
- Get enough sleep.
Your gut health may suffer if you don't get enough or good quality sleep, leading to more sleep problems. Lack of sleep increases the likelihood of obesity, which puts you at risk for digestive system problems.
- Eat slowly.
- Make sure you drink enough water.
Your entire health will benefit from staying hydrated, and constipation may be avoided. Drinking water can be perceived as an easy approach to encourage gut health. A 2022 study discovered that those who drank more water had lower levels of a particular type of bacteria that can result in gastrointestinal diseases.
- Practice exercise.
Movement is medicine for many parts of the human body, including the microbiome. Longer workouts and high-intensity aerobic exercise have the most remarkable effects on gut bacteria diversity and have been linked to overall health. A 2019 review stated that exercise could change the composition and functionality of gut bacteria independently of food. Nevertheless, much research highlights the complementary roles of exercise and diet in positively altering gut health.
- Limit your alcohol consumption.
Your microbiota may be negatively impacted by excessive drinking. Excessive drinking is linked to intestinal inflammation, a symptom of an unhealthy gut. According to research, this inflammation can upset the microbiota's balance and change how well it functions.
Frequent alcohol consumption is also connected to gastritis, an inflammation of the gut caused by irritation. Heartburn, discomfort, ulcers, and bacterial infections are a few symptoms of this inflammation.
- Consume prebiotics or probiotics.
Probiotic supplements are becoming increasingly well-liked as awareness of the significance of gut health grows. They might aid in reducing gastrointestinal inflammation and boosting the natural immune system of the gut.
Probiotics vs. prebiotics
Our health benefits from both prebiotics and probiotics. Maintaining a healthy balance of these bacteria in your gut flora is achieved by eating a balanced diet that includes probiotics and prebiotics. However, they have different roles:
These live bacteria are present in several meals and supplements. Numerous health benefits may be provided by them.
Vegetables, fruits, and legumes contain fibers known as probiotics. Although certain kinds of fiber cannot be digested by humans, they can be metabolized by gut flora.
Probiotic fiber is abundant in the following foods: bananas, berries, oats, onions, garlic, and leeks…
The sources of these compounds are indigestible to humans carbohydrate types, primarily fiber. The good bacteria in your intestines ingest it for you.
If you want to enhance the number of healthy bacteria in your diet, a premium plain yogurt with live cultures can be a great choice. Another excellent choice is fermented food since it contains beneficial bacteria that feed on the fiber or sugar of your meal.
Fermented foods include, for instance: kombucha tea, some types of pickles as well as other pickled vegetables, kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut…
Does your gut health impact your mental health?
Your gut is often called a "second brain" for a reason. The nerve that connects your gut and brain allows communication between the two.
The brain has an immediate effect on the stomach and intestines. For instance, before food even enters the stomach, the mere thought of eating can cause the stomach to secrete juices. This relationship is reciprocal. Just as a disturbed brain can send messages to the gut, a troubled intestine can also transmit signals to the brain. As a result, anxiety, stress, or depression can induce or result in stomach or intestinal issues.
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When should you visit a doctor?
If you have been dealing with gut issues for over a few weeks, you should see your doctor. Also, talk to your doctor if you have abdominal bleeding symptoms, underwear stains or leaks, or an uncontrollable desire to urinate.
Patients receiving cancer treatment should always alert their medical staff if they observe any gastrointestinal abnormalities or if they gain or lose weight quickly.
Taking care of your gut health during holidays
During the Holidays, we usually eat everything without making healthy food choices or caring about how much we eat. When we experience gastrointestinal issues, we start paying attention and notice what we did.
The gut needs to be taken care of all the time. So below, we will give you a few tips on enjoying your Holidays without damaging your gut.
During Christmas, the following can cause gut problems:
- Fried food
- Meals heavy in fat and sugar, such as chocolate
- Spicy foods
- Drinks that fizz
We want you to experience the holiday fare you enjoy. However, you can adjust your Christmas meal and how you consume it, which will make you feel better afterward.
Also, please note that an upset stomach around Christmas can occur for reasons other than food and drinks. You may feel exhausted and have trouble digesting due to stress and a busy routine. On Christmas Day, ensure you assign responsibilities to friends and family that can help and schedule some downtime.
After reading this article, we hope you understand how to improve your gut health naturally - and the benefits of it.
The human gut is complicated. Although further research is needed, it is evident that the gut microbiome impacts overall health. Numerous aspects of health depend on maintaining a healthy balance of gut flora.
Consume many prebiotic and probiotic foods to achieve this, as they will aid in promoting the best possible balance between good and bad gut bacteria.