Maintaining a healthy digestive balance helps prevent many common diseases and is critical to general health and wellbeing. A healthy gut strengthens the immune system, maintains a healthy heart and improves cognitive function. It also enhances sleep quality and improves mood. However, too many of us either neglect gut health or are unaware of the benefits a healthy digestive system has on our overall health.
Here are four ways to ensure your gut is not just functioning but is also thriving:
1. Balancing bacteria
We all have good and bad bacteria living in our gut. An imbalance is known as dysbiosis which can lead to things like depression hormonal imbalances, allergies, bloating and other nasty conditions.
The goal is to maintain what’s known as a healthy microbiome. A diet rich in fiber including fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains is a good start. It’s also important to stay away from refined sugars and low nutrient foods.
Adding probiotics to our diet can also bolster the number of good gut bacteria. Probiotics are found in fermented foods like kimchi, greek yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, and pickles. A probiotic supplement may also help but make sure you first check with a qualified health practitioner.
Like any living organism, gut bacteria need food to survive. Prebiotics are like the food source of gut bacteria. They can be found in foods like oats, cooked & cooled potato and resistant starches. Including these foods in your diet will grow strong, healthy gut bacteria.
2. The impact of antibiotics
Antibiotics can be lifesaving, but they can be overprescribed and then have a damaging effect on the gut’s microbiome by reducing or even eliminating good gut bacteria.
If you’re prescribed antibiotics it’s important to seriously nourish your gut at the end of the course. Eat fiber-rich food, take a natural probiotic and eat prebiotic foods to feed the good bacteria.
Stress is normal and something we all experience, however, chronic stress can have a negative impact on gut health.
Experts have linked stress to a range of digestive problems. One way to limit daily stressors is by consuming gut-friendly, endorphin-releasing foods like fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C. Even a square or two of dark chocolate can help.
Reducing caffeine intake,
especially in the early morning and late afternoon, is important as our
brains release cortisol – the stress hormone – when stimulated.
Things like meditation, exercise, socialising and professional therapy are also tried and tested ways of relieving stress, as is a good night’s sleep.
4. Food sensitivities
Food intolerance, or allergies, can cause any number of serious conditions. Ignoring even mild symptoms can have a damaging long-term effect on the gut and its structure. If you experience common symptoms like acid reflux after eating, try eliminating trigger foods which often contain dairy, wheat, gluten or caffeine.
You may also have symptoms due to a lack of essential enzymes or bacteria, so seeking the advice of a qualified naturopath or nutritionist will help you pinpoint the problem.
Hopefully, this helps you better understand the relationship between gut health and general wellbeing. Always remember to love your guts, we do!