The Importance of Gut Health
An overview of gut health
Over the last few years, gut health has become a hot topic in the health industries. Modern research has shown that the bacteria in our intestines influence almost all facets of our biology and physiology. The bacteria that live in your gut are referred to as microbiome, or the enteric nervous system (ENS). This system is starting to be considered your ‘second brain’ due to the high level of communication it has between your body and your brain.
Roughly 70% of the neurons in your body, outside the brain and spine, are found in your gut. Your gut regulates 90% of the serotonin in your body, alongside many other chemicals. Serotonin regulates anxiety, happiness and mood. Poor gut health reduces the amount of serotonin released, resulting in strong symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Furthermore, the immune system is primarily run by our ENS. The microbiomes read our body and send messages to the brain telling it what immune response is required. Poor gut health can lead to the overuse of our immune system. It results in poor skin, regular feelings of being run down or sick, poor energy levels and diminished focused.
These good bacteria in our bodies help maintain a healthy small intestine, ensuring that vitamins and minerals are properly digested. The microbiomes help to activate essential nutrients like vitamin K and produce short chain fatty acids which are essential in protecting against bad bacteria and maintaining our intestinal walls.
On top of this, poor gut health affects symptoms of allergies, headaches, joint pain, fatigue and mood swings.
Symptoms Of An Unhealthy Gut
Some of the key symptoms of an unhealthy gut include digestive problems such as bloating, gas, nausea, diarrhea and heartburn. Sugar cravings, bad breath, skin problems like breakouts and eczema, allergies and food sensitivities. On top of this are symptoms of moodiness, anxiety and depression as well as autoimmune issues and poor immunity.
How To Strengthen Your Gut Health
Strengthening your gut health means reducing the number of poor bacteria and building up the number of good bacteria. The best way to do this is by providing the body with enough prebiotics and probiotics. On top of this, improving general health by getting enough sleep, staying hydrated and exercising regularly also works to improve gut health. Furthermore, foods like homemade bone broth, ginger, carrot and garlic all have strong gut health-enhancing properties.
Prebiotics fuel our probiotics. They are natural, soluble fibres and resistant starches that feed the good bacteria in our large intestines. Soluble fibre and resistant starch are not absorbed by the small intestine, so when they arrive in the large intestine they are still intact, allowing the probiotics to ferment the nutrients into usable chemicals.
When probiotics digest prebiotics they produce short chain fatty acids which inhibit the growth of bad bacteria and maintain a healthy intestinal lining. By reducing your intake of processed foods and eating more fibre you will give your body the fuel it needs to create more probiotics.
Foods that are high in prebiotics are legumes, green leafy vegetables, partially milled grains, citrus, leek, seeds, apple and corn.
Probiotics are the good bacteria that live in our digestive systems. There are a huge number of probiotic supplements now on the market, alongside probiotic-infused foods. Supplements can be beneficial, especially after a long period of taking antibiotics, which reduce the number of probiotics in the body. However, it is always best to get your nutrients from real foods. Food high in probiotics are fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, kimchi, and tempeh. Yogurt, kombucha, kefir and miso are also great natural sources. For your probiotic levels to improve, these foods need to be incorporated into your daily diet. Taking them once every now and then will not have a strong effect on your probiotic levels.