According to compounding research, good health begins in the “gut”, but what exactly does that mean? The term gut health is quickly expanding from a scientific topic to a common buzzword in the health and wellness industries. Most people know that gut health involves digestion and absorption, however, the truth is, gut health means much more.
Often referred to as your body’s “Second Brain,” your gastrointestinal system affects much more than digestion. Healing your gut can have positive affects for weight loss and everything from mood to memory. Read on to learn how a healthy gut will benefit your overall health and wellness.
Defining Gut Health
While scientifically there is no one definition for gut health, scientists agree that the intestinal microbiota—or flora—and the gut barrier determine gut health. A healthy, intact gut barrier maintains a healthy gut, while any issues in microflora can compromise your body’s defense systems. While the lack of a definition for gut health creates an issue for researchers, it also generates the need for people to recognize signs in their own body.
Signs of good gastrointestinal health, according to a 2016 issue of BioMed Central Magazine, include:
- Effective absorption of food, water and minerals
- Regular bowel movements and no abdominal pain
- Normal stool consistency and rare bloating, constipation or diarrhea
- No bacterial overgrowth
- Balanced serotonin production
- No inflammatory bowl disease or other inflammatory disease
- No acid reflux or other gastric inflammatory disease
Function of Healthy Bacteria
The human gut contains 10 times more bacteria than all the human cells in the entire body, including 400 known bacterial species. These strands of bacteria in your gut promote gastrointestinal function, protect the body from infection, regulate metabolism and comprise more than 75% of our total immune system—and that’s only the extent of what we know about the gut’s role in our health.
Importance of Gut Health
It’s all related. Your body’s systems aren’t mutually exclusive—in fact, they perform together, interrelated in a manner that can either benefit or hurt your health, depending on how they are nourished. Scientists also refer to the “brain in your gut” as the enteric nervous system (ENS). The hundred trillion bacteria found in your gut are involved in your brain at many levels, controlling mood, memory and beyond.
Combat Leaky Gut
Scientists have shown that “leaky gut”—a condition that causes the lining of the gut to become compromised and increases inflammation—can increase your susceptibility for brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and autism.
Behaviors Detrimental to a Healthy Gut
Many behaviors, lifestyle habits and tangible items contribute to unhealthy gut flora. These include:
- Antibiotics and other medications and NSAIDs
- Diets high in refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods
- Chronic stress
- Diets low in fiber
- Dietary toxins
- Environmental toxins
- Pesticides from commercially grown foods
How to Restore a Healthy Gut
The key to restoring or maintaining a healthy gut involves being cognizant of diet and lifestyle behaviors that can improve and possibly heal poor gut health. Here are some helpful tips for experiencing optimal gut health.
- Remove toxins from your diet
- Eat plenty of fiber
- Take a high-guality digestive enzyme such prior to every meal
- Take a high-quality probiotic.
- Ensure you are getting enough fiber with a high-quality fiber supplement such as Diet Center Fiber Capsules or Fiber Drinks.
- Take steps to manage stress such as meditation, yoga, exercising and other relaxation methods
- Opt for raw, whole, organic, non-GMO foods, when possible
- Add fermented and cultured foods to your diet, including kombucha, kimchi and other prebiotic foods like garlic and jicama
Gut Health isn’t just a fancy health buzzword, it’s a term you should take seriously and monitor closely. Eat whole foods, avoid processed items and take a quality probiotic supplement to guarantee you are taking every precaution to ensure a healthy gut.