Gut health is having a wellness hay day. Until a few months ago, you may have only heard about the importance of probiotics in an Activia commercial, but nowadays, scientists, nutritionists and wellness advocates alike are touting the importance of gut health. Mainly because of it’s relation to a variety of other health issues.
Our gut is home to trillions of healthy (and not-so-healthy) bacteria that helps keep our bodies regulated. We’re actually made up of 5-10 times more bacteria than we are human cells! But, when that bacteria gets out of whack, it could lead to digestive, emotional and autoimmune problems. Who would have thought that anxiety and brain fog could start in your gut?!
In this article, I am going to take you through the importance of gut health, how to know if you’re experiencing gut issues masked as other problems, and what the heck you can do about it.
It all starts in the gut
About 80% of our immune system lives in our gut. In fact, our microbes (*fancy* word for gut bacteria) are the first thing that food, viruses and other bodily invaders see when they travel through our bodies. So, gut health is extremely important to our health barometer.
Of course we know that our immune system is important – no one wants to get the flu from your desk mate. But even more interestingly: our guts actually regulate our feelings and moods. For example, over 95% of our happy hormones (aka Serotonin) are housed in the gut!
Think of the gut as a creator of the most important molecules in your body. Gut bacteria does everything from regulate our metabolism (cue that 4pm snack break), to help us concentrate during that early morning meeting. So, the larger variety of gut bacteria you have, the better.
What happens if the gut goes wrong
You can think of the gut as a transportation system from the mouth, all the way to your butt – which is different than the tiny area we think of below the belly button. For a variety of reasons, ranging from the cleaning products we use to the makeup we wear, that internal tube could get inflamed.
Which is where our gut issues begin.
When our gut is working, it prevents food and other harmful bacteria from entering the bloodstream, while letting the good guys inside. But, over time that long-term inflammation creates tiny holes along the gut track – allowing the bad guys to get out. Hence the term, “leaky gut.”
When you’re experiencing a “leaky gut,” it can affect all other parts of your body and mind. Besides typical bloating and inflammation, gut problems can lead to digestive issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, mental issues like anxiety and depression, and even longer-term diseases like Alzheimer’s.
What the heck you can do about it
The good part about all of this is that fixing your gut can sometimes just take a reset. Gut inflammation comes from environmental and physical choices that we make, so having a healthy gut is in our control.
As I mentioned earlier, gut issues are created through long-term build up from a variety of factors. These include: stress; eating processed foods & loads of sugar; using antibiotics, toxic beauty and cleaning products, and plastics/metals, and being too clean! Our guts are made from bacteria, so all of these ingredients weaken or remove our healthy microbes.
If you want to be more conscious of your gut health, decrease your intake of sugar and processed foods. Also, start eating more fibrous, fermented foods (like kimchi). Or if those types of flavors aren’t your jam, you can turn to easier-to-stomach foods like asparagus and cauliflower – two veggies with strong prebiotic qualities.
But, sometimes you need a full-stop detox. I used this awesome program through mindbodygreen called the 7-Day Gut Reset. It helped me kickstart my gut health with a regimented week-long program, because sometimes you need an expert laying out the exact menu you should follow. Trust me – the combination of science-backed methods + a strict food plan helped get me back on track.
Do you have experience with gut issues? What tools have you used to get your gut back on track?