Did you know that your gut is actually a second brain? Our digestive system is one of our most important organ. Learn about how important is gut health for your immunity.
What is Gut Health?
You have many bacteria in your body. In fact, you have more of them than you have cells. Most are good for you. The ones found in your gut not only help you digest foods; they work all over your body and can be good for your physical and mental health.
What is a gut microbiome?
This is a home base for the bacteria in your digestive tract. Here, they help you break down food and turn nutrients into things your body can use. They stop growing when they run out of food, so you’ll only have what you need.
In the gut microbiome, the “good” bacteria do more than just help with digestion. They help keep your “bad” bacteria in check. They multiply so often that the unhealthy kind don’t have space to grow. When you have a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut, it’s called equilibrium. If you have too much of a certain bad bacteria in your gut microbiome, you’re more likely to have;
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Researchers are looking into new treatments for them that target the bacteria in the gut microbiome.
What is the relation between gut bacteria and cholesterol?
Some kinds of gut bacteria may be part of the link cholesterol has to heart disease. When you eat foods like red meat or eggs, those bacteria make a chemical that your liver turns into TMAO (trimethylamine-N-oxide). TMAO may help cholesterol build up in your blood vessels. Researchers are studying a natural substance called DMB that’s in olive and grapeseed oil. They think it might keep your bacteria from making TMAO.
What is the relation between gut bacterial and chronic kidney disease?
Too much TMAO also may lead to chronic kidney disease. People who have the disease don’t get rid of TMAO like they should. That surplus can lead to heart disease. Researchers think it’s possible that too much TMAO might make you more likely to have chronic kidney disease.
What is the relation between gut bacterial and brain health?
Your brain sends messages all over your body. Researchers believe your gut may talk back. Studies show that the balance of bacteria in the gut microbiome may affect your emotions and the way your brain processes information from your senses, like sights, sounds, flavors, or textures.
Scientists suspect that changes in that balance may play a role in conditions like autism spectrum disorder, anxiety, and depression, as well as chronic pain.
How is gut bacteria related to obesity?
An unhealthy balance in your gut microbiome may cause crossed signals from your brain to feel hungry or full. Researchers think there may be a link to the pituitary gland, which makes hormones that help set your appetite. That gland can affect the balance of bacteria in your gut, too. Some studies on treating obesity are exploring this link.
Gut health and probiotics
Found in some foods, these are “good” bacteria like the ones already in your gut. They can add to the bacteria in your intestinal tract and help keep everything in balance. But they’re not all the same. Each type works in its own way and can have different effects on your body.
Probiotics can make your immune system stronger. They may boost gastrointestinal health, too, especially if you have something like irritable bowel syndrome. Some probiotics also may help ease allergy symptoms and help with lactose intolerance. But because our gut microbiomes are unique, if and how they work can be different for everyone. And some experts feel more research is needed.
You can find them in dairy products like yogurt and aged cheeses. Look on the ingredients list for live cultures of bacteria like bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. They’re also in fermented vegetables, like kimchi and sauerkraut, and pickled vegetables, like onions and gherkins.
Think of these 8 foods, source for probiotics. They may help your body take in calcium better and boost the growth of helpful bacteria in your gut. They’re found in fruits and vegetables, like;
- Foods with whole wheat
What is synbiotics?
Probiotics can boost the growth of good bacteria, and probiotics are good for probiotics. When you combine the two, it’s a synbiotic. The idea behind them is to help probiotics live longer. You can make synbiotic combinations with things like bananas and yogurt or stir-fry asparagus with tempeh. Source.
Can You Change Your Gut Bacteria?
You get your gut microbiome at birth, and the world around you affects it as you grow up. It’s also influenced by what you eat. That’s why it can be different depending on where you live and why you may tilt the balance a bit.
Are bananas good for your gut?
Bananas help restore normal bowel function, especially if you have diarrhea (say, from too much alcohol). And they restore electrolytes and potassium that may be lost because of runny stool. Banana also have lots of fiber to aid digestion.
7 Signs of an unhealthy gut
Many facets of modern life, such as high stress levels, too little sleep, eating processed and high-sugar foods, and taking antibiotics, can all damage our gut microbiome. This may affect other aspects of our health, such as the brain, heart, immune system, skin, weight, hormone levels, ability to absorb nutrients, and even the development of cancer.
There are several ways an unhealthy gut might manifest itself. Here are 7 of the most common signs. Source.
- Upset stomach – Stomach disturbances like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, and heartburn can all be signs of an unhealthy gut. A balanced gut will have less difficulty processing food and eliminating waste.
- A high-sugar diet – A diet high in processed foods and added sugars can decrease the number of good bacteria in your gut. This imbalance can cause increased sugar cravings, which can damage your gut still further. High amounts of refined sugars, particularly high-fructose corn syrup, have been linked to increased inflammation in the body. Inflammation can be the precursor to several diseases and even cancers.
- Unintentional weight changes – Gaining or losing weight without changing your diet or exercise habits may be a sign of an unhealthy gut. An imbalanced gut can impair your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugar, and store fat. Weight loss may be caused by small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), while weight gain may be caused by insulin resistance or the urge to overeat due to decreased nutrient absorption.
- Sleep disturbances or constant fatigue – An unhealthy gut may contribute to sleep disturbances such as insomnia or poor sleep and therefore lead to chronic fatigue. Most of the body’s serotonin, a hormone that affects mood and sleep, is produced in the gut. So gut damage can impair your ability to sleep well. Some sleep disturbances have also been linked to risk for fibromyalgia.
- Skin irritation – Skin conditions like eczema may be related to a damaged gut. Inflammation in the gut caused by a poor diet or food allergies may cause increased “leaking” of certain proteins out into the body, which can irritate the skin and cause conditions such as eczema.
- Autoimmune conditions – Medical researchers are continually finding fresh evidence of the impact of the gut on the immune system. It’s thought that an unhealthy gut may increase systemic inflammation and alter the proper functioning of the immune system. This can lead to autoimmune diseases, where the body attacks itself rather than harmful invaders.
- Food intolerances – Food intolerances result from difficulty digesting certain foods (this differs from a food allergy, which is caused by an immune system reaction to certain foods). It’s thought that food intolerances may be caused by the poor quality of bacteria in the gut. This can lead to difficulty digesting the trigger foods and unpleasant symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and nausea. There is some evidence that food allergies may also be related to gut health.
7 Things you can do to improve gut health
- Lower your stress levels – Chronic high levels of stress are hard on your whole body, including your gut. Some ways to lower stress may include meditation, walking, getting a massage, spending time with friends or family, diffusing essential oils, decreasing caffeine intake, laughing, yoga, or having a pet.
- Get enough sleep – Not getting sufficient quality of sleep can have serious effects on your gut health, which can contribute to more sleep issues. Try to prioritize getting at least 7–8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Your doctor may help if you have trouble sleeping.
- Eat slowly – Chewing your food thoroughly and eating your meals more slowly can help promote full digestion and absorption of nutrients. This may help you reduce digestive discomfort and maintain a healthy gut.
- Stay hydrated – Drinking plenty of water has been shown to have a beneficial effect on the mucosal lining of the intestines, as well as on the balance of good bacteria in the gut. Staying hydrated is a simple way to promote a healthy gut.
- Take a prebiotic or probiotic – Adding a prebiotic or probiotic supplement to your diet may be a great way to improve your gut health. Probiotics provide “food” meant to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, while probiotics are live good bacteria. People with bacterial overgrowth, such as SIBO, should not take probiotics. Not all probiotic supplements are of high quality or will actually provide benefit. It’s best to consult your dietitian when choosing a probiotic or prebiotic supplement to ensure the best health benefit.
- Check for food intolerances – If you have symptoms such as cramping, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, rashes, nausea, fatigue, and acid reflux, you may suffer from a food intolerance. You can try eliminating common trigger foods to see if your symptoms improve. If you can identify a food or foods that are contributing to your symptoms, you may see a positive change in your digestive health by changing your eating habits.
- Change your diet – Reducing the amount of processed, high-sugar, and high-fat foods that you eat can contribute to better gut health. Eating plenty of plant-based foods and lean protein can positively affect your gut. A diet high in fiber has been shown to contribute tremendously to a healthy gut microbiome.
4 Types of food for good gut health
Diet and gut health are closely linked. Avoiding processed foods, high-fat foods, and foods high in refined sugars is extremely important to maintaining a healthy microbiome, as these foods destroy good bacteria and promote the growth of damaging bacteria. There are also several foods you can eat that actively promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, contributing to your overall health. These foods include;
- High-fiber foods – High-fiber foods such as legumes, beans, peas, oats, bananas, berries, asparagus, and leeks have shown a positive impact on gut health in many studies.
- Garlic and onion – Garlic and onion may have some anti-cancer and immune system-enhancing properties based on various studies, which are closely tied to some of the primary functions of the gut. Some of these benefits are anecdotal, although some research has been done.
- Fermented foods – Fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, tempeh, miso, and kefir are great dietary sources of probiotics. While the quality of these foods may vary, their benefits on the gut microbiome are well studied.
- Collagen-boosting foods – Collagen-rich foods such as bone broth and salmon may be beneficial to overall health and gut health specifically. Many of these benefits are anecdotal conclusions and further research could be done. You could also try to boost your body’s own collagen production through foods. Try adding a variety of foods, like mushrooms, good dairy, or certain meats.
You can also learn about: Carnivore Diet
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