We hear the terms “gut” and “gut health” all too often, but what exactly is the gut and why should we care about keeping it healthy? Gut health refers to the function and balance of bacteria within our gastrointestinal tract. This tract is associated with different organs such as our esophagus, stomach, and intestines. The “gut microbiome” is where different types of bacteria reside in our intestine and most of this bacteria is typically healthy.
While the majority of these microorganisms are beneficial to our bodies, some of these microorganisms can obviously be a bit more harmful to our health. The gut is very complex and affects more parts of our overall health and wellness than we think. Many studies in the medical community have determined that there are links between gut health and the immune system, mood, cancer, skin conditions, endocrine disorders, and autoimmune diseases. Good bacteria in your gut can help your immune system fight depression and anxiety, and reduce unhealthy BMIs.
Certain habits can result in poor gut health. A number of symptoms may also start to arise once your gut becomes unhealthy:
Diet and lifestyle factors are typically the root cause of an unhealthy gut. Not getting enough sleep, exercise, and drinking too much alcohol can all result in harm to your gut bacteria. Here are some ways you can take action to improve your gut health.
When it comes to sources of nutrients for a healthy gut biome, fruits and vegetables are your best options. This is because they are both high in fiber, which is great for stimulating growth of healthy bacteria.
Fermented foods undergo fermentation, where the sugars are broken down by yeast or bacteria. Most fermented foods are also rich in lactobacilli, a bacteria that is beneficial for your health. Here are some great examples of fermented foods:
Along with fermented foods, prebiotic foods are also beneficial when it comes to the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics are ultimately carbs that your body isn’t able to digest, so they will go to the lower digestive tract and act like food to grow healthy bacteria. Certain foods like fruits and vegetables may contain prebiotics already, but they can also be found on their own. Here are some great examples of foods with prebiotics:
Similarly to prebiotic and fermented foods, polyphenols increase the amount of good bacteria in the gut. Polyphenols can increase certain types of bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli in humans. Here are some great examples of foods rich in polyphenols:
Eating whole grains can be one of the most important things you do when trying to improve your gut health. Whole grains contain lots of non digestible carbs such as beta-glucan. Instead of the small intestine, these carbs will go to the large intestine and promote growth of good bacteria. It has been shown through research that whole grains promote the growth of different kinds of healthy bacteria such as Bifidobacteria, Lactobacilli, and Bacteroidetes. Along with various gut health benefits, whole grains are also linked to increased feelings of fullness, reduced inflammation, and risk factors for heart disease. Eating whole grains can be a benefit to your metabolic health in general.
Now that you are more informed about gut health and what it entails, please take care of it! Remember, gut health can have links to more serious conditions such as cancer and other autoimmune diseases. If you have tried remedies to improve your gut health and have been unsuccessful, or you have any other health concerns, please contact your physician for a check up.