GUT HEALTH (GoHealthier Mag)

Why is Gut Health so Important?

The topic of our gut has become more commonplace over the past few years, as people begin to take the management of their health into their own hands.

Touted as the ‘second brain’, our gut is a lot more complex than most individuals purport to know. Not only is it involved in digestion, but our gut is also responsible for digesting our emotions (more on this later). As well as this, there are demonstrated links between our gut health and our weight, immune system, mental health, skin condition, autoimmune diseases and even cancer.

If your gut is out of balance, there can be significant ramifications for other organs and important cellular reactions that are required to take place for optimal functioning of your body.

What is the gut comprised of?

Our bodies are made up of trillions of bacteria and the majority of these reside within our gut. They are vital for our gut health, so need to be looked after and are referred to as our ‘gut microbiome’. Some of these microorganism species are harmful to our health, but the vast majority are beneficial.

What are probiotics and why are they important?

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that assist in maintaining healthy gut bacteria. Examples of probiotic foods include:

  • Sauerkraut

  • Kefir

  • Kombucha

  • Tempeh

  • Kimchi

  • Yoghurt

  • Dark chocolate

  • Pickles

  • Olives

  • Miso

  • Sourdough

There are also the probiotic supplements available from pharmacists and health food stores. Most of the good quality probiotics will be found refrigerated, although many companies are now producing versions which can be stored at room temperature.

What are prebiotics and why are they important?

Similar to probiotics, prebiotics also promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Examples of prebiotic foods include:

  • Garlic

  • Onions

  • Leeks

  • Asparagus

  • Bananas (under-ripe)

  • Dandelion greens

  • Bran

  • Apples

More gut friendly diet recommendations

The more diverse your diet, the more diverse your gut bacteria are. This is a good thing as it means you increase the number of benefits your body gets from this good bacterium. As we know, it is important to eat a range of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, dairy and proteins in your daily diet.

The following foods have also been shown to increase the good bacteria in your gut; artichokes, blueberries, brussel sprouts, ginger, almonds and pistachios.

Wholegrain and high fibre foods are also very important for our gut health as they too promote the growth of these good gut bacteria.

Lastly, it is important to avoid processed foods, foods high in refined sugars and artificial sweeteners, in order to maintain a healthy gut microbiome.

Other ways to care for your gut

Aside from good nutritional choices, here are some other ways to care for your gut:

  1. Enemas or Colonics – inserting fluids into the anus to flush out the colon, removing bad bacterial colonies and making room for good colonies to flourish

  2. Reducing stress – stress leads to a compromised gut, which can impact upon your immune system, among other things

  3. Getting enough sleep – it is vital to allow the body to rest and repair in order to attain optimal functioning

  4. Drinking enough water – keep the body hydrated which enables important cellular reactions to take place

  5. Avoid smoking, excessive caffeine and alcohol – these toxins compromise the bodily systems

  6. Move your body daily – to improve circulation and detoxification

  7. Avoid taking antibiotics unnecessarily – antibiotics kill both the bad and good gut bacteria

  8. Detoxify your cleaning products – toxic products add an additional load on the body’s systems

  9. Get a pet – pets are known to improve our immunity

  10. Breastfeed your baby for at least the first 6 months – this sets them up with a good gut microbiome

The link between our gut and our emotions

The gastrointestinal tract and central nervous system have a biochemical signalling that takes place as the two communicate to one another. This is referred to as the ‘gut-brain axis’, the physical and chemical connection between your gut and brain. Scientists have been studying how the neurotransmitters and other chemicals in your gut, affect your brain. This is now understood to play a role in your mental health, whereby sufferers of gastrointestinal problems, often experience anxiety and stress as a result, which in turn exacerbates their compromised gut.

The enteric nervous system is located in the gut and it relies upon the same type of neurons and neurotransmitters that are found in our central nervous system. So, the gut and brain communicate in numerous ways, through the nervous system as well as through hormones and the immune system.

The neurotransmitters produced in our brain control our feelings and emotions, as do the neurotransmitters produced in the gut. So, when you experience the sensation of butterflies in your stomach, this is a clear indication of how the brain and gut are connected.

With this knowledge, you can now hopefully see the importance of your gut health. Be sure to take good care of your gut, so it can look after you!

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