Gut Health: an Overview
Over the years, countless studies have established a close link between gut health and everything else such as autoimmune conditions, mental and reproductive health, brain functioning, immune system, skin conditions, endocrine disorders, and even cancer.
By definition, 'gut microbiome' refers to trillions of microorganisms that reside in your stomach and intestine. It's estimated that about 500 different species of bacteria house the digestive tract. While some of these bacteria are harmful to human health; others are the foundation of gut health and incredibly necessary for digestion, assimilation, and absorption of nutrition.
The more variety of good bacteria you have in your gut, the better your body can improve symptoms of depression, obesity, and immune-related conditions. It can drastically improve your overall health and quality of life.
Signs of an Unhealthy Stomach
1. Upset stomach
Gas, bloating, diarrhea, acid reflux, heartburn, brain fog, fatigue, and constipation are all typical signs of an unhealthy gut.
2. Sudden Weight Changes
Sudden and unexpected weight changes, including sudden weight gain or loss is often indicative of some underlying gut issue. An upset/imbalanced stomach impairs the body's ability to regulate blood sugar levels, store fat, and absorb nutrients. SIBO is often the culprit behind weight loss, and insulin resistance is often the cause of weight gain.
3. Constant fatigue or sleep disturbances
The gut produces serotonin which is a mood and sleep hormone. But an unhealthy gut is unable to produce adequate amounts of this hormone leading to sleep disturbances and insomnia, which can lead to lethargy and chronic fatigue.
4. Skin Issues
There's this thing called the skin-gut axis which is responsible for communication between skin and gut. An imbalance of digestive enzymes can disrupt this communication leading to skin inflammation and many essential proteins leaking out of the body. This can cause inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
5. Autoimmune conditions
There's a growing body of medical research and evidence that suggests a close link between gut issues and its impact on the immune system leading to all kinds of autoimmune conditions like MS, liver disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and even fibromyalgia.
6. Food intolerances
When there's a poor quality of bacteria in the gut, you may have a hard time digesting certain foods which can lead to food intolerances. As a result, you may experience stomach pain, nauseous, diarrhea, gas, and bloating.
Four Types of Foods For Gut Health
Certain types of foods are sure to promise your gut health by supporting the flora that resides there. Some of those foods are:
This includes whole grains, legumes, oats, bananas, asparagus, leeks, greens, peas, etc. Studies have, time and again shown a close link between fibrous foods and improved gut health.
Garlic and Onion
There's some evidence that garlic and onion may have cancer-fighting and immune boating properties which ties closely with the gut health.
Fermented foods are possibly the #1 suggestion you will find everywhere for fixing an unhealthy gut. Foods like kefir, miso, tempeh, yoghurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut are excellent dietary sources of live bacteria that your gut may be deficient in. Countless studies show that fermented foods can dramatically improve gut health by aiding the gut microbiota.
Although research is lacking in this regard, some anecdotal evidence suggests that collagen boosting foods like salmon and bone broth may heal a leaky gut. You can also get collagen in the form of supplements in the market. Some meats and proteins are also said to help with gut health.
What else can you do?
Lower your stress levels
Stress can massively disrupt your gut health by negatively impacting the digestive enzymes. Few ways to keep stress levels at bay are - walking in the park, earthing, yoga, diffusing essential oils, laughter therapy, spending time with children or pets, and massage therapy. Whenever stress hits you, try to engage in something creative or go outside for a walk. While you're at it, try to lower daily caffeine intake as well.
Get enough sleep
Make 7-8 of uninterrupted sleep your biggest priority, and you should experience a major shift in your gut health. You will also be a lot happier and will have fewer cravings for unhealthy foods that disrupt the gut flora.
Eat Slowly and Chew Properly
Ayurveda suggests that chewing your food slowly gives the stomach enough breaks to effectively breakdown the food. Supposedly, eating slow promotes fuller digestion and better nutrition absorption. It may also reduce general abdominal discomfort.
You already know this one. Staying well hydrated has plenty of benefits. One of those is better gut health.
Take a Prebiotic or Probiotic
Although you can stick with prebiotics and probiotics foods that nourish and increase the healthy gut enzymes; you can also go with supplementation to reap those benefits. Supplementation allows you to replenish the enzymes your gut is lacking. But, you may have to consult your healthcare provider when choosing either of these supplements.
Check for Food Intolerances
If you often experience cramping, abdominal pain, nausea, fatigue, brain fog, and acid reflux; you may have certain food intolerances. Trying 'the elimination diet' may help you recognize which of the foods are triggering these symptoms. Eliminating those problem foods may dramatically improve your symptoms and overall digestive health.
You can try a combination of these methods to see if your condition improves. If you still don’t feel any positive difference, it’s best to talk with your healthcare provider.
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