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Gut Health - What Do I Need to Know?

Gut Health - What Do I Need to Know?

Researchers claim that irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other gut issues are on the rise.

But, why?

The most obvious change in society is our trend toward fast and prepackaged foods. We built the food industry around efficiency, which could be the root cause of many individuals’ gut problems.

Certain chemicals aren’t meant to go in our bodies. Prepackaged foods often have little to no real nutritional content.

Food labels are often misleading and confusing. You have to decode what they mean. Perhaps part of it is that we aren’t educated properly regarding the food we eat.

The bottom line? Our bodies aren’t getting what they need.

Junk food is introduced and advertised to us from a young age. Unhealthy breakfast cereals, snacks, and candy are dangled in front of us. We are convinced that we want these foods - and the idea is implanted in our brains early on.

And then, we wonder why our stomachs hurt.

So, what do you need to know about your gut health? How can put you put your health first?

Fact: Your Gastrointestinal Tract is Outside Your Body

Let us explain.

The tube where your food runs from your mouth to your anus is considered, from a physiological perspective, to be outside of your body. Some of the cells and bacteria that pass through your GI tract never enter your bloodstream.

Why? Your gut is equipped with an intense immune system. This environment is further filled with bacteria - bacteria that you need to properly digest your food. But, your gut allows only certain substances to pass through into the bloodstream or the “inside” of your body. Bad bacteria is filtered and not allowed to pass through your digestive system’s semi-permeable walls.

How? Spots in the GI tract called “Peyer’s Patches” identify and stop harmful bacteria. They prevent this bacteria from entering your bloodstream and spreading throughout the rest of your body.

Yet, not all of this bacteria is bad. A lot of the bacteria makes up the microbiome in our gut.

What is the Microbiome?

In short, the microbiome is the group of microorganisms in your gut, including viruses, bacteria, microbes, and more.

This microbiome affects an array of body functions and sensations, such as pain, stress, sleep, how we use the food we eat, and how we fight off infection. Studies show a link between our microbiome and diseases such as arthritis and obesity. It is evidently an important aspect of gut health to consider.

What Determines Your Microbiome?

A combination of entities impact your microbiome. Some you can control. Some you can’t.

Your microbiome makeup is due to genetic factors, stress, age, diet, gender, hygiene, your activity levels, and more.

The biggest one you can control is your diet.

Your microbiome adjusts according to your diet. If you have a fairly flexible diet, chances are your microbiome is fairly flexible. If you only consume processed foods (which we in no way recommend), your microbiome will adjust. The body, in general, is a fairly adaptable machine.

However, a balanced and healthy diet proves time and time again to offer the most benefits and least downsides (including stomach issues).

In terms of your diet, here’s how you can keep your microbiome in a healthy and balanced state:

1. Lower Your Sugar Intake

We used to think fats and cholesterol were our major food enemies. Boy, were we wrong!

High sugar diets wreak havoc on our bodies. They can lead to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, inflammation, and a whole other array of negative effects.

Unfortunately, a lot of prepackaged and process foods are jam-packed with sugar.

Sugar destroys good gut bacteria. It also easily passes through our digestive system without help from the microbiome community. The microbiome is left with nothing to feed on. So, they feed on what’s left - the cells that line your GI tract.

Inevitably, this leads to a “leaky gut.” Substances easily pass from your digestive tract to your bloodstream, setting in motion a series of events. Your immune system may begin to attack your own body’s cells. Widespread inflammation and infections may occur.

The best way to cut your sugar intake down a notch is to do so gradually. Sugar is addictive. If you try to quit sugar cold-turkey, you may experience major mood swings and crashes.

Slowly cut out foods one at a time. Do it over a few months or more, and aim for a daily sugar intake of 25 grams or less.

2. Eat Your Healthy Fats

Bad fats increase inflammation and destroy healthy gut bacteria. In contrast, good fats keep your systems functioning in tip-top shape and can decrease your risk of heart disease.

Go for monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and omega-3 fatty acids. Try foods such as salmon, vegetable oils, and lean meats.

3. Stock Up on Veggies

The majority of your carbohydrate intake should come from vegetables. Keep these on hand to snack on throughout your day. Go for low-sugar options like leafy greens and carrots.

These veggies will also add fibre to your diet, which promotes a healthy gut microbiome. Put your health first and eat more veggies - your mom was onto something from the start!

4. Try Probiotics

Probiotics are frequently suggested to those with stomach issues.

Probiotics are good bacteria. Consuming probiotics can help replenish any good bacteria that has been lost or destroyed in your digestive tracts.

They can help reduce irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, and inflammation.

Where can you find probiotics? Yogurt is a popular choice - but always make sure to check the label to ensure you pick the right one!

Other options include supplements. If you’re curious about trying probiotics in supplement form, ask your doctor or local pharmacist. They will be able to help you choose the right one.

5. Avoid Foods That Make You Feel Sick or Tired

We usually know what these foods are. You eat them, then don’t feel too great for the next few hours or all of a sudden experience a severe mid-afternoon crash.

Identify these foods, then avoid them. Common problematic foods include high-sugar foods, gluten, cheese, ice cream, and other highly processed foods. Although they may taste good at the time, they likely aren’t worth the repercussions that follow.

Conclusion

So, what else can you do to improve your gut health?

  • Eat at the same time every day. It keeps you regular and won’t throw off your body’s clock.
  • Drink more water. Water helps push your food through your digestive tract. It also contributes to an array of other functions in the body.
  • Move more! Exercising regularly can also keep that food bumping along. It helps the muscles in your digestive tract and can help reduce constipation.
  • Find healthy ways to cope with stress (hello, exercise!). Chronic stress can lead to a load of unhealthy consequences. Find healthy ways to cope. Talk to a friend. Take time to relax and care for yourself when you’re feeling tired.
  • Quit smoking and drinking, or at least reduce your smoking and drinking habits. These can interfere with regular functioning and can cause things such as ulcers and heartburn.

A lot of it comes down leading a healthy, balanced, and active lifestyle.

Put your gut health first. Eliminate those foods that you know you need to. Lead a healthy and balanced lifestyle - it’s not rocket science and is available to everyone. Make those changes. Keep your gut happy and in turn, you’ll find your happy as well!

Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden

"Believing in yourself is really half the battle," says Krista. Anything is possible and you really can achieve anything you set your mind to, is her motto. Physiotherapist, Piano player, skydiver, yogi, adventure traveler and energetic force of positivity, Krista is herself a (delightful) force to be reckoned with! As... Read More

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