- Gut health describes the function and balance of the many parts of the gastrointestinal tract.
- Gut is largely responsible for the critical functions of our body and bacteria play a vital role in our metabolism and health.
- An imbalance in gut bacteria’s contribute to chronic diseases such as diabetes, IBS, carcinoma, mental health and depression.
When it comes to overall health, gut care is a crucial topic in present times. When you eat something, your food takes a twisty trip that starts from your mouth and ends in your rectum. But as we know a lot happens in between, the heath of your gut plays a key role in your overall health, physical and mental both.
What is Gut?
Gut is another word for gastrointestinal or digestive tract, which starts at your mouth and ends at your rectum. Gut health describes the function and balance of the many parts of the gastrointestinal tract. It refers to the overall health of your digestive tract. Organs such as stomach, esophagus and intestines all work together to allow us to eat and digest food without discomfort. Gut health is used to refer to the balance of microorganisms that live in your digestive tract; this is known as gut microbiome.
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Our body consists of trillions of bacteria, yeast and viruses that are beneficial for human health, and some are even essential and a balance of these microbiomes in our body is important for our physical and mental health, metabolism, immunity, skin condition, mood and more, while some microorganisms are harmful to our health.
Why Gut Health Is Crucial
Gut is largely responsible for the critical functions of our body and bacteria play a vital role in our metabolism and health. Bacteria feed our dietary fiber while they perform a range of duties, such as helping to make vitamins B and K and breakdown dietary fiber, which releases beneficial fatty acids that are essential for our bodies.
Our body has about 300 to 500 different species of bacteria with nearly 2 million genes in digestive tract. The mix of bacteria in our body is different from everyone else’s. According to various research, gut bacteria in healthy people are different from those who are suffering from certain diseases. People who are unhealthy and sick may have too little or too much of bacteria or may lack a wide variety of bacteria.
An imbalance in gut bacteria contribute to chronic diseases such as diabetes, IBS, carcinoma, mental health and depression, obesity, cancer, cholesterol levels, and others. A healthy gut also works together with the brain through nerves and hormones, which help in maintaining mental health and mood.
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The harmful bacteria need to be replaced with beneficial bacteria and probiotics can help as 70% of our immune system resides in our gut. Food is broken down to its simplest form, which enters your bloodstream and ultimately gives us are desired nutrients.
Signs of an unhealthy gut
In today’s stressful life, too little sleep, anxiety, tough antibiotics, eating processed food and high sugar and salted food can damage our gut microbiome that may affect our brain, heart, skin, hormone level, immune system, weight and even the development of cancer.
Some of the unhealthy gut signs are:
- Upset stomach: Stomach disturbance such as gas, constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, heartburn and diarrhea can be signs of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a common condition that affects the large intestines.
- High-sugar diet: A diet that consist of processed food and added sugar can decrease the amount of good bacteria in our gut, which can increase sugar cravings and damage gut bacteria further. High amount of refined sugar intake can increase inflammation in the body, which can be the precursor to a number of diseases and even cancer.
- Skin irritation: The damaged gut may cause skin problems such as eczema.
Gut inflammation is caused by a poor diet or food allergies that may increase leaking of certain proteins out into the body, which can irritate the skin and cause eczema.
- Sleep disturbance or constant fatigue: An unhealthy gut may contribute to sleep disturbance or insomnia, which can lead to chronic fatigue. Serotonin in our body, a hormone that affects mood and sleep, is produced in the gut. Some sleep disturbances have also been linked to risk for fibromyalgia.
- Food Intolerances: Due to extreme lifestyle, digesting certain foods may get difficult, which may term as trigger foods. This can lead to food intolerance with unpleasant symptoms such as indigestion, nausea, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
- Unintentional weight changes: Sudden weight gain or loss without making changes to your diet or exercise habits may be a sign of an unhealthy gut. As imbalance gut may reduce the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, store fat and regulate blood sugar. Weight loss may be caused by small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, while weight gain may be caused by insulin resistanceor the urge to overeat due to decreased nutrient absorption.
- Autoimmune conditions: The unhealthy gut may increase systemic inflammation, which may affect the proper functioning of the immune system. This may lead to autoimmune diseases, where the body attack itself rather than harmful invaders.
- Mood Issues: According to various research, imbalance in gut and inflammation in the central nervous system may be potential causes of anxiety and depression.
Balancing your Gut
There are a lot of ways and foods that can help you support your gut health:
- Clean up your diet: Food that you eat have a direct impact on the balance of bacteria in your gut. Add food with more fiber, vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates in your diet that feed good bacteria and try to avoid high sugar and processed foods. Increase the consumption of probiotic food such as artichoke, asparagus, jicama and flaxseeds, which feed the good bacteria to multiply, thrive and predominate.
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- Include probiotic supplements in your diet: Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are like good cops, which can keep a watch over the bad guys. A few food rich in probiotics are asparagus, onion, garlic, bananas and apples.
- Eat a diverse range of food: A diet consisting of different food types can lead to a diverse microbiota that pays a different role in your health and fulfill the need of different nutrients for growth.
- Eat fermented foods: Fermented food are foods altered by microbes are good for your gut. The process of fermenting usually involves bacteria or yeasts converting the sugar in food to organic acid or alcohol. The fermented food includes yogurt, Kimchi, kefir, Sauerkraut, tempeh and kombucha.
- Identify food triggers: You may have some specific food sensitivities and personalised nutrition needs to balance your gut health. If you keep eating food that you are sensitive to that can lead to immune reactivity and contributes to gut imbalance. So, you should find out the food triggers and try to eliminate them in your diet.
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- Intermittent fasting: Going without food for a certain period of time in a day, may help in balancing gut. It gives break to your gut that supports a normal inflammatory response. reduce bloating and shed water weight.
- Eat whole grain and plant-based food: Whole grains contains a lot of fiber and non-digestible carbs, that are not absorbed in small intestine and make their way to large intestine. These food items are broken down by the microbiota and produces certain beneficial bacteria. The plant-based diet promotes the growth of different types of intestinal bacteria and reduce weight, inflammation, and cholesterol levels.
- Eat food rich in Polyphenols: Polyphenols are plant compounds that are beneficial for health that reduces blood pressure, inflammation, cholesterol level and oxidative stress. You may have:
- Green tea
- Grape skins
- Red wine
- Cocoa and dark chocolate
Lastly, exercise regularly and reducing your stress are your key mantra: Exercising and physical activity is an important step in getting your gut into a balanced state, it increases the amount of bacteria in your digestive tract and contributes to overall bacterial diversity. Also, too much stress can lead to immune reactions that contribute to gut imbalance. Though it’s impossible to get rid of stress completely, it’s important to get all types of stress level under control. Some common stress reduction techniques are:
- Reducing your workload
- Getting enough good sleep
- Cleaning up your environment by using non-toxic personal care and cleaning products