Did you know that the health of your gut is crucial to your overall health? Your gut is so much more than simply the pathway for food to travel along from your stomach through your body.
Your gastrointestinal tract contains an incredibly complex microbiome that is responsible for everything from the health of your skin to your mental health, the state of your immune system, even cancer.
The bacteria in your gut are truly extraordinary.
On average, each person has between 300-500 different types of bacteria living in their gut. Whilst some are dangerous, the rest do an incredible job at maintaining your health.
At one point the gut wasn’t considered that vital to our overall health, it was merely the conduit for absorbing nutrients and moving food through the body to be excreted. But now research shows that the health of our gut has a significant impact on our health in general.
How do you know if you have a healthy gut?
Modern life plays havoc with our gut. Stress, not getting enough sleep, eating the wrong type of foods or foods high in sugar and trans fats, even taking antibiotics can all upset the delicate balance of our gut microbiome.
And like dominos, when one thing is out of kilter, it can have a knock on effect on so many aspects of our wellbeing which rely on the good bacteria in our gut to keep us healthy.
So what are the signs of an unhealthy gut?
- Upset tummy. Bloating, excess gas, trapped wind and diarrhoea are all symptoms of an unhealthy gut, as it struggles to process food and eliminate the waste.
- Unexpected weight gain or loss. If you find yourself gaining weight or losing weight unexpectedly, this can be a sign of an unhealthy gut. If your gut isn’t able to absorb nutrients properly you won’t be getting the full benefit of the food you eat. You could find yourself losing weight because your body isn’t digesting your food properly or you might gain weight as a result of overeating to compensate for a lack of nutrients being absorbed.
- Skin conditions. Skin issues like eczema and acne have been linked to an unhealthy gut. Flare ups and outbreaks can be the result of an imbalance in your gut bacteria.
- Autoimmune diseases. Recent research has shown that an unhealthy gut has a body-wide impact and can affect the immune system and prevent it from functioning properly. This can lead to autoimmune conditions that cause the body to attack itself.
5 ways to improve your gut health
If you are suffering with poor gut health, there are things you can do to help alleviate the symptoms, such as:
- Get more sleep. A lack of sleep can be seriously detrimental to your gut health, so aim for a good 8 hours a night.
- Prebiotics. Eat foods that feed the good bacteria in your gut, and encourage healthy bacteria to grow. Things like fermented foods i.e. sauerkraut and kimchi, nuts, onions, oats and whole grains, pulses and fruit are fertiliser for the bacteria.
- Probiotics. You can introduce good bacteria into your gut through probiotics. You can take supplements containing probiotics or you can eat foods that are rich in them, like yoghurt, kefir and other fermented foods.
- Destress. Stress affects your whole body, even your gut microbiome. So find a way to lower your stress levels that works for you – mediation, yoga, working out, even going for a short walk to clear your head will all help your gut bacteria thrive.
- Drink more water. Water is the source of life and your gut needs to stay hydrated if you want it to function well. Staying hydrated isn’t just beneficial to promoting a healthy gut though, it’s essential for good overall health.
Essentially, the human gut is incredibly complex, but inextricably linked to our overall health. So if you want to improve your health, work on improving your gut health first and you’ll find you reap the rewards.