FOLLOW YOUR GUT…’S HEALTH
You have bacteria living inside you. There, we said it (sorry germaphobes). But the good news is that they’re actually good for us, and we need them to survive. Most of them live in our gut, and they are the key to good digestion, weight regulation and keeping your immune system strong (among other things). So it’s really a group effort: you keep em’ happy, and they’ll keep you healthy.
SIGNS OF AN UNHEALTHY GUT
What is gut health, exactly? The guidelines are still a disputed topic in the medical community, but in general, it refers to effective digestion, absorption of food and overall wellbeing of your intestines.
1 – BLOATING, GAS, HEARTBURN
The importance of gut health is sometimes underrated. Of course you may have the occasional upset stomach, but if it’s a consistent thing then there is something wrong. IBS (Irritable Bowl Syndrome) is a direct sign that there is a war going on inside your gut (and it feels like it too). Imagine the bacteria (also called gut flora) are like fourteen-year-old groupies who’ve just been told their favourite boy band is breaking up. You get the picture.
2 – UNINTENTIONAL WEIGHT CHANGES
Isn’t it great to wake up and see the scale read a few numbers less without having done anything? And then you wake up and the scales are up. And the next day they’re down. Weight fluctuation is obviously not ideal, and is often the cause of a problem in the gut. Weight loss (not the healthy type) may be a sign that there are bacteria normally found somewhere else now growing in the small intestine. Weight gain is a sign of insulin resistance or poor nutrition.
3 – SLEEP DISTURBANCES
It’s not always that a poor night’s sleep affects your gut health- it may be the other way around. Serotonin (the hormone that affects mood and sleep) is mostly produced in the gut. If the gut is not working properly, neither will the production of serotonin. There is always the question of what came first, the chicken or the egg, but studies also show a correlation between poor gut health protocol and depression.
4 – SKIN PROBLEMS
The medicine world is still trying to figure this one out, but many theories suggest that inflammation in the gut can cause it to leak. Let us explain: a healthy gut has seal-tight barriers that control what goes in and out. An unhealthy gut will have weaker walls, which will allow bacteria and toxins to pass into the blood stream, which can irritate the skin and cause rashes or acne.
5 – FOOD INTOLERANCES
There is still some research going into this, but studies suggest that difficulty digesting food means there’s a problem with the bacteria in the gut. Maybe there aren’t enough, or maybe there aren’t any at all to start with. Food intolerance is not the same as a food allergy (which causes a reaction in the immune system). Symptoms of intolerance (bloating, migraines, runny noses, coughing, IBS or hives) sometimes take days to appear, so it’s difficult to link what food causes what intolerance.
6 – FIBROMYALGIA
To put it simply, fibromyalgia is a chronic widespread pain caused (theories say) by an autoimmune disease. Symptoms include pain, fatigue and cognitive difficulties. Studies show that people with this disease have the same amount of bacteria in their gut, but different levels of specific bacteria. There is still very little known about the disease itself, let alone the correlation between gut health and it’s symptoms, but making doctors aware of this connection can help alleviate some of the symptoms.
IMPROVING GUT HEALTH DIET NATURALLY
You can take expensive gut health tests, or DIY versions, but the truth is we still don’t know much about microbiomes. However what we do know is that there is a link between what you eat and how it affects your gut health.
1 – EAT THE RAINBOW
There are many, many, many different types of bacteria in your gut, and the more the better (hey germaphobes, how you doin’?) The more diverse types of bacteria you have, the better, and this can be achieved by eating a diverse diet, specifically one high in fibre (the body can’t actually digest fibre, but some types of bacteria can and doing this stimulates their growth). Raspberries, artichokes, apples, blueberries, green peas, broccolis, whole grains, beans, chickpeas are all great sources of fibre and a really great ways to improve the gut heath flora.
2 – FERMENTED FOODS
Fermentation happens when bacteria or yeast convert sugars into alcohol or organic acids. Yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha are all examples of fermented food (and yeah, we know that so is beer and wine, but these are actually bad for your gut if consumed in excess because it damages the gut wall). Fermented foods help to promote the abundance of good bacteria, and at the same time reduce the levels of bad bacteria. Just keep in mind that when we say yogurt, we mean natural or very low in sugar. You know, the plain yogurt. The not so tasty one. That one.
3 – ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS: NOT SO SWEET AFTER ALL
Although they may make you lose weight, they increase blood sugar and promote bad bacteria. In the end, that weight loss is not worth it. Avoiding them or substituting them for something more natural (like raw honey) is a better alternative.
4 – GO VEGGIE
Before all our omnivores lose their minds, let’s put it out there that this is a temporary thing. Take it as a no-meat detox. Why? Because plant-based diets have been shown to reduce disease-causing bacteria, such as E-Coli. The trick is to make the diet diverse, and make sure your gut health supplements are “on point” (vitamins B12, D, and iodine, among others). You should also start by doing it slowly. Going cold turkey on the meat department might result in bloating and digestive discomfort as your body adjusts to the new diet.
So, there it is. It’s true that your body is a reflection of what you eat, and as weird and creepy as it sounds, it’s actually worth taking care of the millions of little creatures living inside you. It’s your responsibility; you are their host, after all!