Gut Health basics: Why it’s important + what you can do to improve it

There are plenty of sayings about the gut; Trust your gut feeling, No guts, no glory. I would like you to start incorporating a new saying about the gut: Gut health in key in your overall health.

Buckle up, we are diving into the importance of the gut + ways to improve gut health.

What’s up with all the bacteria?

We each have about two trillion bacteria in our body…yes trillion. All of these bacteria make up our microbiome – the village of microorganisms living inside of us. The majority of the bacteria in our body is found in our digestive tract (our gut).

These microbes play such a major role in our body; they help with the digestive process (breaking down food + absorbing nutrients), play a role in our metabolism, neurological function and they can even have an effect on stress and anxiety.

What’s even more interesting than the size of our microbiome? The diversity of our microbiome. There are a lot of good bacteria that live within us but with good also comes bad.

We have a symbiotic relationship with the bacteria in our body; they need us in order to live and in return they help with our biological functions.

When we eat and feed our bodies, we are also feeding the bacteria. So, when we think about the food we are putting into our digestive tracts, we also need to think about which bacteria we are going to feed with the food. Are we feeding the good guys or the bad guys? The bad guys feed off of sugar and unhealthy fats (think processed and junk food) and the good guys thrive and survive off of fiber (think wholesome foods, fruits and vegetables).

If we starve the good bacteria and feed the bad then our digestion may not be up to par and this can lead to bloating, gas, discomfort and irregular bowel movements. If we feed the good bacteria and starve the bad, we will support healthy digestion, healthy neurological function and promote overall good health.

Gut-Brain

The Gut-brain axis (GBA) is the two-way communication between the central and enteric nervous system. The GBA has linked emotional and cognitive centers in the brain with intestinal functions. Studies have shown that the gut microbiome influences those interactions and communication. Main thing to point out is that this is a two-way street; the gut talks to the brain and the brain talks to the gut. If there is a dysfunction in the gut it can interrupt interactions with the brain and vice-versa.

This relationship has been able to link our gut microbiota to mood disorders such as stress, anxiety and depression. And it has also been able to link mood dysfunctions with irregularities in digestion and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

 Ways to improve your gut health

If you notice irregularities in your digestion (constipation, cramping,  gas, discomfort) it is beneficial to take the steps to improve your overall gut health.

Keep a Food Diary:

Most of the time we are not really paying close attention to how food is really making us feel. To start in your journey to a healthier gut, keep a track of the food that you eat and how that food makes your body feel. Paying attention to these patterns may help you determine what foods you should consider eliminating from your diet.

Limit intake of inflammatory foods:

Studies have shown that foods high in sugar, starch and saturated and trans-fat cause an inflammatory response. Inflammation leads to poor absorption of nutrients which can also lead to more serious conditions. Decreasing meat and dairy and increasing plant-based foods in your diet is recommended. (Bonus: you increase your fiber intake when you eat more plant-based foods)

Check out the FODMAP list:

FODMAP stands for Fermentable oligosaccharide, disaccharide, monosaccharide and polyols. Foods high on the FODMAP list produce gas when they are broken down, which can cause discomfort and bloating for those with sensitive systems. Check out these high and low FODMAP lists to see where your favorite foods fall.

Gut health is incredibly important. It is necessary to make sure that your microbiome is stocked with all the good bacteria to make sure that your gut can efficiently do it’s part in making your biological functions happen. If you are concerned with gut sensitivity it is wise to talk with your primary care provider to get your vast and unique microbiome under control.

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