Considered to be our second brain and becoming an increasingly popular term in the food industry is ‘gut health’. What we consume can impact the role of the almost 40 trillion bacteria that can be found in our bodies. This article explores why gut health is so important and also shares 8 ways to restore your gut health.
What exactly is ‘Gut Health’?
The term ‘gut health’ has an unclear scientific meaning, but it is said to encompass food digestion, absorption of nutrients, aspects of the gastrointestinal tract, and the intestinal microbiota. Having held a high level of importance in Asian medicine for several years, today it is becoming increasingly important in the Western world. Studies have shown that the Western diet is not exactly up to par with maintaining a healthy gut, but professionals are eager to learn and understand how this affects the body.
In their article, BMC Medicine suggests that gut health is: “a state of physical and mental well-being in the absence of GI complaints that require the consultation of a doctor, in the absence of indications of, or risks for bowel disease and in the absence of confirmed bowel disease.” They find that there are five criteria that make up a healthy GI tract:
- Effective digestion and absorption of food
- Absence of GI illness
- Normal/stable intestinal microbiota
- Effective immune status
- Status of well-being
By increasing our knowledge of gut health, we may be able to work on preventative methods instead of focusing on treatment.
Why is Our Gut Health So Important?
Well known Greek physician and ‘Father of Medicine’, Hippocrates, strongly believed that “all disease begins in the gut”. This suggestion made over 2000 years ago has actually proven to be accurate. Our gut health is so important because of microbiome. Microbiome is the ecosystem of bacteria found in our bodies and it can be affected by what we consume and how we live.
Our microbiomes are predominately found in the gut and carry with them some very vital information. Some of that information includes:
- Hereditary factors
- Body type
- Predisposition to diseases
- DNA and more!
Research shows that almost 90% of all diseases can be traced back to the health of the microbiome in our gut. Therefore, this complex environment of microbes has a lot of influence on how our bodies function. We have the ability to control how we nurture this internal environment. It’s amazing ability to adapt to the numerous changes we expose ourselves to daily means that we can take back control of our health.
How Would I know If My Gut Health Is Bad?
There are a number of signs and symptoms that point to poor gut health, but they are often ignored. This is because many people have grown used to feeling this way and simply attribute it to, ‘this is just how it is’. Check for the following signs of having an unhealthy gut:
- Autoimmune disease – rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, celiac disease, etc.
- Digestive issues – gas, diarrhea, bloating, etc.
- Poor memory
8 Ways To Restore Your Gut Health
For those who are looking to get their gut health under control, consider these 8 strategies for creating a healthier gut.
- Cut Out The Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners are a common alternative for those who want the taste of sweetness without the calories, but what’s the catch? These sugar-free options might help with weight loss but they also increase blood sugar and our body’s response to insulin. Studies show that artificial sweeteners can have a negative affect on the gut microbiota, which is what leads to the aforementioned issues. While it’s okay to add artificial sweeteners sometimes, it is best not to over do it.
- Drink With Caution To Restore Your Gut Health
We already know that alcohol is bad for both our physical and mental health, but how exactly does it affect our gut? Consuming alcohol often can lead to microbial imbalance, or dysbiosis. Dysbiosis presents with the following signs and symptoms:
- Acid reflux
- Weight loss and/or weight gain
- Joint pain
- Skin conditions such as eczema, acne, etc.
- Chronic fatigue and much more!
One study found that gin decreased the number of good bacteria, while red wine increased the amount of good bacteria in the gut. The red wine contains polyphenol, which may protect the bacteria in the gut when consumed in moderation. The best advice here for improving your gut health is to decrease alcohol consumption and increase your water intake.
- Protect Your Gut From Junk Food
It is difficult to stroll the grocery store without seeing junk food between aisles, on aisle end caps, and even while checking out at the register. Avoid this impulse buy by thinking about how bad it is for your gut. Processed items like pizza, chips, lollipops, and soft drinks are full of sugar, bad fats, and additives. When you consume processed food you create an imbalance in your gut where there is more bad bacteria than good bacteria.
- Consume More Probiotic Foods
Did you know that probiotics can increase your metabolism and change the configuration of the microbiota in your gut? 63 studies found that probiotics restored microbiota back to a healthy state for some participants and other studies showed that it improved the function of some gut bacteria. Look for foods that naturally contain probiotics such as sauerkraut, pickles, and yogurt. There are also probiotic supplements that can be consumed, although it is recommended that you find foods that already contain it. Consider these other probiotic food options:
Our favorite Probiotic supplement is here:
- Increase Your Intake Of Prebiotic Foods
Like probiotic foods, prebiotic foods are also great for improving your gut health. In fact, they work together to achieve this goal. Probiotics feed off of prebiotics, helping them to thrive and grow to promote a healthy gut, so they are just as essential. Consider these four prebiotic rich foods:
- Organic apple cider vinegar
- Potato skins
- Fiber Rich Foods Can Help Your Gut
While our bodies cannot digest high fiber foods, they can help stimulate the growth of certain bacteria in the gut. They are actually considered to be one of the best sources of nutrients for your microbiota. A study on fiber rich foods showed that it actually prevented the growth of some disease causing bacteria. Try upping the intake of the following fiber-rich foods to boost your gut health:
- Green peas
- Whole grains
- Breastfeeding Can Improve Gut Health For Babies
Studies have shown that breast-feeding an infant for at least six months can help prevent certain diseases from occurring later in life. At birth, a baby’s microbiota begins to develop, but lacks the bacteria needed in the microbiome to fight off harmful disease. Breast milk can supply up to 30 percent of a baby’s gut bacteria, which is extremely helpful to building their immune system. The bacteria in breast milk can actually form in a way that fights off toxins and allergens that the baby may be exposed to.
- Polyphenols Are Important
Earlier in the article, we mentioned how the polyphenols in red wine helps to protect the bacteria in the gut, but there are other ways to add these plant compounds to your diet. The gut microbiota breaks down polyphenols and in turn, it increases the amount of good bacteria and prohibits the growth of disease causing bacteria. Try increasing your intake of the following rich polyphenol food selections:
- Red onions
- Tea – green tea and black tea
- Dark chocolate
The food that we consume has the potential to either prevent disease or increase our risks, so it’s important that we pay attention to what we allow in our bodies. If we start focusing on health-promoting diets, we may find that our quality of life improves significantly. With the advice of your health care provider, consider taking steps towards restoring your gut to better health.