Gut Health has been a hot topic in the health world lately but wildly confusing. As soon as we answer one question, another pops up. Are probiotics as good for your gut as advertisers claim? What causes bloating? What are food intolerances?All of these are frequently asked questions about our gut health and nutrition, and we’re going to answer them for you today.
Why is gut health so popular?In recent years science has begun to uncover that the majority of illness starts in the gut. Our microbiome is the epicenter that controls everything about us. From our digestion to our immunity, to our weight, to our moods, to our skin, to our hormones - our gut controls it all.
When our gut is functioning properly, it’s able to distribute vitamins and minerals to the rest of our bodies so that we can function optimally. If we don’t have a strong and functioning gut, we’ll experience different illnesses and autoimmunities due to inadequate nutrient intake and inflammation.
What causes us to get bloated (and what does it mean)?Bloating occurs in your abdomen (stomach). When our digestive system is compromised, it struggles to break down food. This can be from a sluggish metabolism, stress, food irritation, low stomach acid, or anything that causes excess gas to be trapped in the gastrointestinal tract.
Ways to eliminate bloating are to slow down during your meals, avoid drinking liquids, eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full, getting into a schedule, eliminating stress around mealtimes, putting away technology during meals, and taking note of what foods do and do not work well for you.
What are food intolerances?Food intolerances are when the body has a hard time digesting food. Oftentimes though, this is misunderstood with food allergy. A food allergy is when you have an immune response (think peanut allergy). Whereas food intolerance happens in the gastrointestinal tract.
An allergy is something we have for life. Intolerance is something we can fix when we begin to ask the questions around why our bodies can’t digest the food - usually related to sluggish metabolism, infections, stress, or lifestyle habits. Once we address the root cause of inflammation, food intolerances are eliminated.
What does eating to support your gut look like?Anti-inflammatory foods that do not irritate the digestive tract help keep the intestine healthy. In general, this would look like well-cooked vegetables as they are easier to digest, high-quality proteins to support essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own, root vegetables or carbohydrates to support the body's energy production, and healthy sources of fat to keep moods and energy stable throughout the day.
Foods such as zucchini, asparagus, carrots, beets, garlic, onions, chicken, beef, fatty fish, potatoes and sweet potatoes, olive oil, and avocado.
Are probiotics important (and what is it, anyway)?Yes, to have a healthy digestive system we need a healthy balance of probiotics and prebiotics in our diet. Probiotics are friendly bacteria that are found in our bodies that keep our digestive systems healthy. These live microorganisms help digest food, destroy harmful pathogens and promote nutrient absorption.
But not all probiotics are made equal. When it comes to choosing the right one for your health plan, it’s recommended to do your research as many on the market can either be useless or cause more damage than good. You can find more information on finding the right one for you here.
Why do they call the gut the ‘second brain’?The gut and the brain are in constant communication with each other via the gut-brain axis, also known as the vagus nerve. Emotions and thoughts are communicated to the gut which influences our digestive health and vice versa.
When we are stressed out, the blood flow that should be going to our gut is now going to our survival organs which is why eating in a relaxed state can greatly improve digestion.
And alternatively, our gut is home to as many neurotransmitters as our brain. So when our gut isn’t functioning properly, our brains can’t function optimally. In order to heal one, we have to heal both.
What is a leaky gut and how can we prevent and/or heal it?Leaky gut is the term used when the protective intestinal barrier becomes damaged and results in gaps in your intestinal walls starting to loosen. This then allows toxic debris such as partially digested food particles and bacterial fragments to leak through the intestinal walls.
This upsets the body which creates an immune response putting the body into a chronic state of inflammation which can lead to illness and autoimmune disorders.
To prevent this from happening it's essential to live a gut-friendly lifestyle. Focusing on nutrient-dense foods, along with stress-management techniques so that the permeability of the gut can remain strong.
If you already have gut irritation, it’s important to ask your doctor for a comprehensive stool analysis to ensure no underlying infections are taking place. From there, you can start building out a gut recovery plan that helps to restore the balance back in your gut and repair the gut lining.
How do alcohol, caffeine, and medicine impact our gut health?Alcohol and medicines can irritate the mucus layer of the intestinal lining and lead to an imbalance in the gut microbiota (known as dysbiosis). Taking medications like antibiotics, laxatives, female hormones, antidepressants, and antihistamines alters the composition of the gut microbiota. This isn’t to say we can never consume alcohol or take medications, but in moderation and only when absolutely needed.
Studies have shown that coffee has a positive effect on gut microbiota, as it works as a prebiotic. Coffee contains soluble fiber, mainly arabinogalactans and galactomannans. If someone gets irritated by coffee, this usually has to do more with the metabolic function of the person than coffee itself.
What is the relationship between the gut and the immune system?80% of your immune system resides in your gut, which is why it’s key to nurture the gut in order to have a strong immune system. Due to a leaky gut, when the gut barrier is compromised, pathogens can then enter the bloodstream. When this happens, illness occurs. A bad gut leads to a weak immune system and vice versa. The effect is therefore a two-way street: if one system is weak, so is the other.
In order to protect our whole health, we have to pay attention to the health of our gut through diet and lifestyle. For an effective way of boosting your gut health and fighting inflammation, Healthy Gut & Anti-Inflammation can be added to any morning routine.
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