The Importance Of Gut Health
The little guys (bacteria) living in our digestive tract do not get the appreciation they deserve and understandably so. Growing up, no one told us that those awful acne breakouts, frequent trips to the bathroom and periods of feeling low might have something to do with our gut. In the last 20 years, the rise in information about the gut microbiome has helped us understand the role it plays in our lifestyle. We now know that the gut goes hand-in-hand with the immune system, the digestive system, metabolism and the nervous system. So if there is a shift in equilibrium in the gastrointestinal bacteria, all these other networks can go out of whack. How do we prevent this? – We first have to know the tell-tale signs in our body when it is informing us that there is something wrong.
These are the 5 major signs that should be considered as your gut’s SOS:
1. Tummy Troubles
If you have ever had a bad stomach ache, you will know how it can ruin your entire day. Turns out, your gut could be the culprit. When there is a surplus of certain gas-causing bacteria in the gut, we experience bloating, irregular bowel movements (both more and less than normal) and even heartburn.
2. Sweet Cravings
We always have room for dessert, do we not? But what happens when we overload our diets with sugar? Certain harmful bacteria thrive on refined sugar and when we consume too much of it, they secrete certain proteins that make us crave sugar even more! This creates an unhealthy balance between good bacteria and bad bacteria.
3. Skin Problems
Skin issues like acne and eczema can be linked to gut health. An unhealthy diet can cause a ‘leaky gut’ (1). A leaky gut stems from damage to the intestinal walls so the bacteria and toxic compounds can travel to parts of the body where they should not be. This, in turn, causes inflammation and irritation of the skin.
4. Constant Tiredness
Some days we just cannot WAKE UP! Those days never really go as planned and we end up working like zombies. The gut can bring us to life as it contributes to the production of serotonin. This hormone is required to get a good night’s sleep so when our microflora is disrupted, we are fatigued and moody.
5. Random Weight Fluctuations
Our bodies constantly change at different times in the month. Diet, exercise, genetic factors, sleep, etc., contribute towards our weight. However, if you find that all these factors are the same and you are still gaining or losing significant amounts of weight – you may want to check your gut. The bacteria in there affect insulin resistance and spikes in blood sugar, which can cause weight gain. There are also other species of small intestinal bacteria that cause weight loss (2).
Now that we know how an unhealthy gut can show up in the body, let’s see what we can do about it. Here are some suggestions we have for you:
1. Gut-Friendly Foods
Your diet is crucial when it comes to having a happy gut. Prebiotics, carbohydrates and fibre help the microbes to grow and flourish. These foods include whole grains, onions, bananas, garlic, etc. Fermented foods are natural probiotics – which means that they have good bacteria in them. Yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and pickled foods are amazing probiotics. Besides these, having a well-balanced, diverse range of plant-based foods is beneficial for gut health.
2. Sleep Well
Waking up on the wrong side of the bed has a lot to do with our sleep patterns. We can feel low and out of sorts both physically and mentally. Regular and sufficient (6-8 hours) sleep reduces inflammation and improves gut health (3).
3. Breastfeeding is Important
Breastfeeding may not be accessible to all new mothers. But to those who opt for it, it is good to continue to breastfeed your child for at least 6 months. The milk contains sugars that require certain bacteria in the gut to digest. In this way, it helps the development of these healthy microbes in the baby’s gut (4).
4. Exercise Regularly
Exercise helps us relieve stress naturally and keeps our body in the best condition. It also creates better diversity in the gut flora. The WHO recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity in a week (5).
5. Supplement When Needed
It can be tough to stick to a fixed regime and we can all use the extra help at times. There are incredible probiotic supplements out there to help your gut heal naturally. (There are even prebiotic chocolates!)
All the organs in our system work together so we stay healthy. When one part of the system is defective, it shows throughout the body. This is especially true for the gut – which is connected to several parts of physical and mental health. Take care of our gut health with us at Cora and together we can get one step closer towards our health goals!