Your gut plays a vital role in the overall quality of your health — here are 6 tips to fortify a healthy gut
Gut health is a concept that is becoming increasingly popular these days — and justifiably so.
Apart from your skin, the gut is the major part of your body that is in regular contact with the outside world. Your gut does several things every day to keep you healthy. First of all, it works to keep out the bad substances that should not get into your body while absorbing the good stuff, like nutrients that your body needs to keep functioning. On top of that, it also helps to expel waste products. To cope with all of this, your gut has a close relationship with your immune system. In fact, almost 70% of your entire immune system is located in your gut in the form of gut-associated lymphoid tissue.1
One of the most important elements of your gut is the gut microbiome— a unique collection of microbes such as bacteria, fungi, protozoa, viruses that live in your gut and support its various functions. Just like a fingerprint, your gut microbiome is unique to you. Not only do these microbes break down food into easily absorbed fuel, the influence of your microbiome goes far beyond your gut. For example, by producing certain short chain fatty acids, your gut microbes have an anti-inflammatory effect, protecting you against disorders like allergies and arthritis. Your microbiome is also intricately linked with the condition of your skin. Several studies have found that a healthier gut is associated with overall healthier skin.2
A troubled gut shows itself in many ways. Some of the more common symptoms you may experience include bloating, cramps, diarrhoea, constipation and flatulence. It may not always be so obvious. A decline in your gut health can also manifest as skin problems, fatigue, brain fog/difficulty concentrating, poor sleep3or even anxiety and depression.4 If you have persistent bowel symptoms that just won’t go away, be sure to see your doctor to exclude conditions like celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease. There are specific treatments for these to help you.
6 Tips for improving gut health
If you are looking to generally improve your gut health, or if you are already seeing a medical professional for a gut condition and want to step things up at home, here are some tips:
- Improve your diet
Food goes beyond just sustenance. Eating is an experience in itself, and food can be a source of great pleasure. However, if what you are eating is not right for your gut it can also be a cause of much pain. Your diet is known to rapidly affect your gut microbiome, 5so one of the most effective ways to improve your gut health is to improve your diet.
- Keep a food diary
If you are having gut troubles and think it may be due to certain foods, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact food that is troubling your gut. A strategic approach to identify your triggers, if any, is to keep a food diary. Note down what you eat and how you feel — both physically and mentally — and see if you can spot any obvious associations.
- Eat a variety of food
Studies have proven that eating a diverse diet rich in variety results in a more diverse microbiome.6A low diversity of gut microbes predisposes you to intestinal dysbiosis, which has been associated with autoimmune conditions and obesity.7Therefore, having a greater diversity of microbes in your microbiome will give you a more resilient and adaptable gut.
- Choose whole grains
Whole grains are great for your gut. They have a prebiotic effect on your gut microbiome, making your gut more healthy overall. Not only that, whole grains have been found to change your gut bacteria in such a way that your overall immune system is improved.8As the icing on the cake, whole grain-induced gut changes have been shown to be associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.9
- Add probiotics to your diet
Probiotics are essentially live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your body. They are found in certain foods like yogurt, fermented vegetables, and kombucha, but can also be consumed in the form of supplements. Probiotics improve your gut health by enhancing the anti-inflammatory properties of the microbes in your gut.10They also reduce the amount of toxins in your gut, encourage the growth of good gut microbes and reinforce your gut’s barrier function.11
- Consume food rich in prebiotics
Prebiotics are substances which act as food for the microbes living in your gut. They are typically found in whole grains, artichokes, seaweed, bananas, onions, and garlic.Consuming prebiotics can help increase the amount of healthy bacteria in your gut and thus improve your digestion. The benefits even go beyond the gut. Studies done on mice have found that prebiotic fibres can improve insulin resistance and reduce the risk of obesity.12
These are some of the essentials of basic gut health. As a complex organ that is being researched more than ever, new discoveries in gut health are being made every day. This is great news for everyone whether you have a gut condition or a healthy gut, as improving your gut health can only bring you closer to a happier and healthier life.
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