Food enters our ‘gut’ as soon as we place it inside our mouths. Enzymes and bacteria work to break down the food as it passes through the digestive system, finally leaving the gut when we head to the toilet. This makes the gut one of the most important systems in the body, as it works to absorb the good stuff and eliminate any toxins or unhelpful ingredients.
However, it has recently come to the attention of researchers that the bacteria within the gut microbiome may be more important to other systems within the body than originally thought. The gut has come to be known as ‘the second brain’ working in tandem with the main brain to manage your emotions, heart and kidney health, as well as your weight.
What Makes a Healthy Gut?
That means, that if you want to maintain holistic health for your entire body, you should look at improving your gut. A healthy gut is one that has the correct balance of microorganisms working to digest your food in an efficient and positive way. This delicate balance can be thrown off when there is an increase in harmful bacteria. These can cause inflammation and a sluggish immune system. When this happens for a prolonged period of time, it can cause issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease.
You will soon know if your gut is slightly off balance. You may be bloated, have a slight stomachache, heartburn, loose stools, or constipation. The clue is in the poo!
Feel the Effects of a Good Gut!
The gut is connected to the brain via the vagus nerve, which scientists believe allows bacteria to communicate between the two areas of the body. This has an impact on many other aspects of your body, including your energy levels. That is why you can feel tired and lethargic when you have stomach problems. Conversely, if your gut health is good, your energy levels can soar!
A healthy gut also works to boost energy by ensuring your body absorbs all the right nutrients from your food. It works to regulate your sleep cycles and reduce the incidence of cortisol, known as the stress hormone, in the body. Probiotics are responsible for maintaining the blood sugar level, which can create energy slumps if it is not in alignment. So, if you need more energy, make sure to get those probiotics!
That connection to the brain is also thought to play a big part on your mental health. This is due to bacteria known as Coprococcus and Dialister. People who suffer with depression have low levels of these bacteria in their gut, while those with good mental health have an abundance of them. Those who enjoy relatively stable mental health also have high levels of Faecalibacterium. It is this connection that can mean you sometimes feel physically sick with anxiety, and why those with irritable bowel syndrome often suffer with mood swings. This may mean that it is possible to treat some mental illnesses with a simple customized probiotic!
How to Improve the Health of your Gut
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to boost your beneficial gut flora so that your body works efficiently. The key is to eat foods that are abundant in prebiotics and probiotics. Probiotics are the gut-friendly bacteria that keep everything working as it should. Prebiotics help these bacteria to multiply and thrive. Both are available in supplement form, but they are also pretty widely found in food too. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut and tempeh are full of probiotics, while prebiotics can be found in whole grains, bananas, onions and asparagus. At the same time, you should avoid over-indulging in sugary foods.
It is not all about what you eat, however. You can boost your probiotics by getting at least seven hours of sleep and exercising regularly. Look at ways of reducing stress and avoid antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, as these strip the gut of all bacteria, even the good ones.
Tips for Better Gut Health to Improve Your Life
To sum up, gut health can have a knock-on effect on almost every aspect of your life. Keep your gut flora blooming by eating foods rich in probiotics and prebiotics and consider adding a supplement to your morning routine if you don’t feel that your diet is doing enough. Avoid excess sugars and make sure you get enough sleep every night. Maintain an active lifestyle and look at ways to manage stress, such as meditation, to help get the best from your gut.