Whether or not you struggle with digestive issues, I believe gut health is something we should all pay attention to. I want to explain why, and share some simple steps you can take to get your own gut in shape.
The gut microbiome is one of the hottest health topics of late, and not without good reason. Inside the digestive tract of each and everyone of us resides a vast 'ecosystem' of organisms such as bacteria, yeasts, fungi, viruses and protozoans.
There is mounting research suggesting that the gut microbiome might potentially be as complex and influential as our genes when it comes to our health and happiness. And it is increasingly treated by scientists as an organ in its own right.
As well as being implicated in mental health issues, it is thought these microscopic gut bugs may influence our mood, weight, immune function, inflammation, allergies, skin health, metabolism, appetite and more.
If you read my article from February, 10 Reasons Why you should Care about your Digestive System even if you don't have Gut issues, then you'll start to get an understanding of the far-reaching consequences of an imbalanced gut, and how certain health conditions such as poor skin, lethargy, Alzheimer’s are linked strongly to gut health.
The good news is that by re-balancing and re-nourishing your gut, it is possible to enjoy a wide range of health and wellbeing benefits, including:
- less digestive discomfort such as bloating, cramping
- normalised bowel movements
- a clearer head
- improved immunity
- better mood
- weight loss
- reduced cravings for sugar
- more energy
- improved skin
- reduced symptoms of eczema, asthma, hayfever
What can negatively impact gut health?
- Antibiotics - these tend to kill-off the beneficial strains along with the bad strains so can upset the natural balance of bacteria
- Frequent or chronic use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which may cause damage to the gut lining
- Gastrointestinal infection
- Excessive alcohol or binge drinking
- Low-fibre, refined and highly processed food based diets
- Not chewing your food well – food that is not broken down properly can challenge digestion
- Overeating can overwhelm the digestive system
How many of these may have affected your own gut?
And what does the gut love?
- Lots of plant-based food in the diet - the gut bacteria thrives on a diversity of vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds
- Prebiotic foods that provide a certain type of fibre that gut microbia ferment or feed-off. Foods with these properties include flax seed, leeks, asparagus, and jerusalem artichokes
- Probiotic foods such as kefir, kimchee, yoghurt, kombucha, sauerkraut. These foods are prepared using traditional fermentation methods which results in them being loaded with beneficial bacteria
- Good hydration
- Exercise – this can be very effective at raising levels of butyrate, the bacteria that helps protect against colon cancer. Exercise may also help general gut motility and help you feel less bloated.
How many of these can you say apply to you, regularly?
What steps can you take to nurture a fitter gut?
If you're ready to experience the benefits of a thriving gut, you may be able to identify from the lists above some areas where you have room for improvement.
If you're feeling overwhelmed about where to start, I recommend you pick just one thing to apply your focus to, and make an effort to work on that area consistently.
The good news is the gut is very responsive to positive diet and lifestyle changes - and you may soon be reaping the rewards.