Gut Health is gaining traction in medical and health communities and literature. Increasing research shows that the microbiome in the digestive tract is responsible for more than just digestion. A person has anywhere from 300 to 500 different species of microorganisms in their digestive tract that are beneficial to a healthy body and mind. In fact, these microorganisms contribute to immune system function, improve depression and mood, help to regulate sleep and stress, keeps skin healthy, and use the food we eat to provide nutrients to ensure nutrients are used efficiently.
Is Your Gut Healthy?
Although it is hard to tell if your gut is healthy, your body may give you signs to show you your gut is not healthy. Signs that your microbiome may be unbalanced include upset stomach, unintentional fluctuation in weight, constant fatigue or broken sleep, irritated skin, autoimmune symptoms, mental health warnings including anxiety/depression/mood swings/poor concentration, and intolerance to foods intermittently. Things that can contribute to poor gut health include drinking too much alcohol, not having a diverse diet, consuming antibiotics, lack of physical activity, cigarette smoking, poor or not enough sleep, and high stress levels.
If you are concerned about your gut health – talk to your preferred medical professional or seek a professional who specializes in functional medicine.
Improve Your Gut Health
The key to improving your gut health is in the food you eat. Probiotics (food containing live bacteria) and prebiotics (food that acts as a fertilizer for good bacteria that already exists) fuel your biome so it can thrive.
Probiotic foods include:
- Dairy – Greek yogurt, kefir, and aged cheeses
- Fermented food – Kim-chi, kombucha, soybeans, and pickled food
- Grains – Sourdough bread
Prebiotic foods include:
- Fruits – Berries, bananas, and tomatoes
- Vegetables – Artichokes, green peas, and broccoli
- Grains – Barley, flaxseed, oatmeal, and wheat
- Legumes – Beans, chickpeas, and lentils
In addition to prebiotics and probiotics, other efforts should be made to improve your diet overall. This includes constantly varying your diet, (read our blog on the Keto Diet) not consuming too many sugars or artificial sweeteners, putting emphasis on a plant-based diet, eating foods containing polyphenols (red wine, dark chocolate, green tea, blueberries, and almonds to name a few), and take a probiotic supplement (make sure the supplement is high quality). A well-established diet will help sustain good gut health.
Gut health has a huge impact on your overall health, not just on your digestive tract. The microbiome of the gut can get off balance by both internal and external influences, and the body often shows signs of this. The key to improving gut health is improving your diet through consuming prebiotics and probiotics, limiting sugar and artificial sweeteners, upping your consumption of plant based and polyphenol rich foods, and varying your diet. Improving your microbiome can have a huge impact on your overall mental and physical health.