The importance of gut health for overall wellbeing has been a topic of research for some time now, and although scientists and doctors know a lot more now about how our guts affect the rest of our body, they’re still finding more connections all the time.
Find out more about how the gut works, why it’s so important for overall health, and what you can do to look after your ‘good bacteria’ and your gut.
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What is the gut?
The gut refers to your gastrointestinal tract, which includes your mouth, oesophagus, stomach, and intestines. Usually, when people talk about ‘gut health’, they’re referring to the trillions of bacteria found mostly in our intestines.
These microbes perform a multitude of functions, beyond just digesting and extracting nutrients from our food. They also maintain a well-functioning gut wall, regulate the normal functioning of the immune system, and positively influence our cognitive health. They’re responsible for dispatching some bad bacteria that occasionally make their way into their domain. When there’s an imbalance among the good bacteria, this can result in all sorts of health problems, ranging from intestinal discomfort to stress and trouble sleeping.
Gut health might be a trending topic today, but in fact, it forms part of ancient knowledge surrounding wellbeing. The first mention of this link between food and health dates back to ancient Greece.
How does the gut work?
Students of gut health believe that these microbes also communicate with the body via neurotransmitters, much like the brain does. There are between 200 and 600 million neurons in the gut’s own nervous system, which is around the same number of nerve cells in the spinal cord. It’s no surprise then that the gut has been referred to as the body’s ‘second brain’.
Studies show that some species of bacteria actually produce serotonin and other compounds that can directly affect brain inflammation. Gut bacteria is linked to brain health, making supporting your gut health even more important.
These bacteria feed on whatever passes through our guts, so they’re easily harmed when we don’t eat enough of the right kinds of foods. In the simplest terms, whatever ends up in your intestines affects the 300 trillion microbes living and working in your gut.
Highly processed foods and sugars can weaken them, and antibiotics, which target all bacteria, kill the good bacteria along with the bad.
How to feed your gut
If you are taking antibiotics, it’s vital to take digestive health supplements, such as prebiotics and probiotics, which essentially restock your gut with the good bacteria and decrease harmful bacteria. These kinds of supplements aren’t just for people on antibiotics though, they help maintain gut health whether you’ve been sick or not.
A great way to safeguard your gut health is by ensuring you get a diet high in the foods good bacteria love – like fibre, which is known as a prebiotic because it feeds the good bacteria in our gut and decreases the bad bacteria.
Fermented foods like foods like kefir, Greek yoghurt, and sauerkraut, are high in good bacteria, but getting in enough of them can be a hassle. Instead, you can take a probiotic, which is the living good bacteria, to ensure your microbiome is balanced and happy.
The good news is that you can never have too many good bacteria in your body (when you create and maintain the right balance), but you can have too few. A supplement gives you peace of mind that you’re doing everything you can for the health of your gut and body.
The benefits of a healthy gut biome
With some reported benefits of a healthy gut including overall feelings of wellbeing, good energy levels, strong immunity, effective digestion, and an improved mood, it’s easy to see how an unhealthy gut can affect major aspects of your health and happiness. That’s why it’s worth taking your gut into consideration when planning your meals and lifestyle.
Make it your priority to focus on healthy eating supported by a high quality supplement if you want to reap the far-reaching benefits of good gut health.
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Author: Tanja Schmitz
Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.