Everything You Need To Know About Gut Health

Gut health describes the function and balance of bacteria of the many parts of the gastrointestinal tract – one of the most important systems that keep us alive. It’s responsible for getting food from your mouth to your stomach, then sorting through the good and bad stuff and either creating nutrients or waste, depending on what you’ve consumed.

But therein likes the key to your health. What you put in, is what you get out. View our resources and advice to help make sure your gut health is optimal. [Read more]

What is a leaky gut?

One reason why leaky gut syndrome has been hard to diagnose is that it shares symptoms with other common health problems, making it difficult for doctors to identify.

What Is Gut Health?

A lesser-known fact about the human body is that it carries trillions of different types of bacteria.

The gastrointestinal tract is one of the most important systems that keep us alive. It’s responsible for getting food from your mouth to your stomach, then sorting through the good and bad stuff and either creating nutrients or waste, depending on what you’ve consumed.

But therein likes the key to your health. What you put in, is what you get out.

In other words, eat well for optimal wellness. Because most of the bacteria sit in the intestines and is known as ‘gut microbial, and some help to create a healthy system. But others can be the cause of diseases.

What’s so important about gut health?

Lately, there have been some interesting findings coming out of research being done into exactly how gut health affects the rest of the human body. This type of research is relatively new but is unfolding some strong links from the gut to other areas of the body. This is not just a link to the obvious one, digestion, but also to our immune systems, causes of cancers, and mental health such as emotional stress.

Noting the importance of gut health is as simple as recognising that in healthy individuals, there is diversity in the bacteria that exists in the gut. In unhealthy people, or those that have a consistently unhealthy diet, there is a high level of potentially harmful bacteria, and not much diversity with other organisms.

And it’s this lack of diverse microbes that can be linked to chronic illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes, cancers, heart disease and a lower immune function.

Remarkably, it’s also been linked to many mental health issues as well, like anxiety, depression, autism, and neurological conditions like schizophrenia and dementia.

How can you control the health of your gut?

While researchers are still only just making connections due to this area of medical science being so new, they have made links to influencing factors that mean you can’t control your gut health entirely. But eating a predominantly healthy diet is the easiest way to support or counter the factors that you can’t control.

  1. Some medications, while helping one area of your body, may have a negative effect on your gut health. Those used to treat mental health issues, and some painkillers but especially anti-biotics have all been linked to changes in the gut. Antibiotics are designed to eradicate bacteria but are not advanced to properly distinguish good bacteria from bad, causing known problems in the gut. Often a pro-biotic is prescribed alongside an antibiotic to help to counter these effects and bring back some balance. But results are still out on whether these are effective enough to counter the effects.
  2. Research has also shown that babies born via Cesarean section, don’t have as much microbe diversity as those who were born vaginally, due to not being exposed to bacteria present in the birth canal.
  3. Emotional stress can also affect your gut health due to the effect stress can have on the communication via neurotransmitters from the gut to the brain.

What you should eat to improve your gut health

  • Eat lots of vegetables and fruit

This sounds obvious, but it bears repeating. Fibre and nutrients in fruits and vegetables are known to be what you need for all-round health, starting with your gut. Especially blueberries, broccoli, raspberries, artichokes and green beans. But include as many as you can.

  • Eat beans and legumes

There are so many types of beans and legumes. All are a great source of nutrients and fibre for good gut health.

  • Avoid artificial sweeteners

It should go without saying that sugar is bad for you, but artificial sweeteners are not a great replacement as early research has shown it responds negatively with insulin while increasing blood sugar.

  • Add some fermentation to your daily diet

Fermented foods like yoghurt, sauerkraut and kimchi have a bacteria called lactobacilli, which is good for countering inflammation. Yoghurt is also good for balancing bacteria in the gut and is often suggested when taking anti-biotics to help avoid some digestive side effects. Be careful of the high sugar content of sweetened yoghurts, though. Plain yoghurts sweetened with honey and fruit is best.

What else can you do to improve your gut health?

Generally, if you’re leading a healthy lifestyle, you’ll be doing what is in your power to help maintain a healthy system. Apart from eating well, you should also;

  • Get enough sleep
  • Exercise regularly
  • Stay hydrated
  • Find outlets for stress-relief
  • Don’t smoke
  • Limit your dairy intake
  • Only take necessary medication
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Limit your sugar intake
  • Consume red and processed meat sparingly

How to tell if you’re having gut issues

The stomach can be quite good at telling us when something is not right. You might experience this every now and again with pain, bloating, cramping, gas, diarrhoea etc. These may be short-term alerts to something not right. Often, these will only take a day or two to rectify themselves. But if these symptoms continue for a prolonged period, then it’s time to seek some medical advice from a gastroenterologist.

Tests can be done to determine the cause of ongoing issues. Remember that physical symptoms in the stomach area are indicators of trouble, you may also want to watch your diet and lifestyle if you are suffering from a number of issues including mental health strains, as this can all be linked to our gut health.

While the research into how gut health affects our entire body is still in its infancy, it’s not news that eating the right foods and looking after yourself is good for having the best chance at living a long, healthy life.

Eating highly processed food, taking unnecessary medications where there may be natural remedies, excessive drinking and smoking is really bad for you. We know this. What we’re only just learning is how these things all affect our gut, and how important it is that we respect the gut as much as we respect our brains or our hearts, if we want to live optimally healthy lives.