You’ve probably heard people talking about improving their gut health, but what does it mean and should you be concerned? Gut health, like the name suggests, is related to your digestive tract. You may also have heard people mention bacteria and this plays an important role in gut health as well. This is because there are 10 times more bacteria in your digestive tract than the rest of your body. Also, 60 to 80 percent of our immune system is located in our gut.
Medical practitioners widely believe that all systems–digestive, hormonal, respiratory, etc.–are connected. So, when your gut is unhealthy, it could cause problems and imbalances throughout the rest of your body.
The microbiome, a group of microorganisms (the bacteria), in your gut can even affect your cravings. The microbiome can also affect skin health, anxiety, food allergies, bloating, gas, and other issues. Having bacteria in your gut may sound bad, but it’s important to know there are both good and bad gut bacteria. Although, even the good ones can turn bad when medication, illness, stress, and lifestyle changes come into play.
So, how can you tell if you have good or bad gut health? Some experts agree that issues like food allergies, skin problems like eczema, diabetes, frequent infections, and digestive issues like bloating, gas and diarrhea are signs. Bad gut health can also affect anxiety, depression, mood swings, and poor memory or concentration.
Now, you’re thinking about how you can improve your gut health. One step is to take more probiotics, which are helpful bacteria for your gut. They can be found in fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut, and in drinks like kefir and kombucha. You can also take foods that have prebiotic effects, which feeds the microbes already in your body and in turn, improve your health. Bananas, whole grain wheat, garlic, leeks, and onions are some examples of food to up your prebiotics.
Other recommended dietary changes include eating more fibre, which you can get from fruits like apples, bananas, oranges and strawberries; vegetables such as peas, broccoli, brussel sprouts or a baked potato; grains like barley, oats, brown rice, or whole-wheat pasta; nuts especially almonds, pistachios and pecans; and any sort of beans like black, kidney, or pinto.
Lifestyle changes to aim for include getting seven to nine hours of sleep and keeping your stress levels in check. Some nutritionists may also prescribe supplements such as zinc, omega-3 fish oils, and vitamins A, C and E.
While making these changes, there are some foods and habits you will need to get rid of as well. You might want to lessen your antibiotic intake and save it for when you’re actually sick or when your doctor prescribes them. You will also want to cut down on processed foods, which are high in fat and sugar. Combine that with a low fibre diet, it could become problematic. Eliminating inflammatory foods may be recommended, like alcohol, caffeine, dairy, corn, soy and eggs. It’s best to observe which of these foods work and don’t work for you.