Gut health is a key factor in overall health, from mood and immunity to weight management.
Many of us suffer from at least one of the common gut health problems that range from feeling bloated to heartburn and constipation.
In addition to its own “brain,” which contains 150 million neurons, the gut is also home to trillions of bacteria that play a vital role in providing essential nutrients, regulating the immune system, and even changing the function of the brain and other distant organs. body parts.
The gut also greatly influences our mental health and mood due to the direct connection between the gut and the brain called the gut axis.
Joe Travers, nutritionist at Love Your Gut Week, says: “The gut and brain communicate with each other on a regular basis using special chemical messages produced by the bacteria that live in our gut. Among these we can find dopamine and serotonin, also known as happy hormones.
Travers continued: “Although communication between the gut-brain axis is bidirectional, more than 80% of messages go from the gut to the brain, and not vice versa. However, if conditions are unfavorable somewhere, it may affect another.”
“The health of our gut affects not only digestion, but also immune system and weight management, so with a little nutrition, your gut will not only help your mental health, but also your physical health,” she noted.
So, if you’re hoping to improve your gut health but don’t know where to start, here are six key areas to focus on first.
Boost your immunity
There is a strong link between gut health and the immune system. “Bacteria in our gut teach our immune system what is harmful and what is not. This helps ensure that the immune system does not overreact to antigen exposure and keeps inflammation under control,” Travers said.
However, these important bacteria, according to Travers, “thrive” when we eat plenty of plant fiber, exercise, sleep well, and manage stress.
One study found that exercise promotes the growth of a bacteria called butyrate.
Butyrate may help repair the intestinal lining and reduce inflammation, potentially preventing diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and insulin resistance that can lead to diabetes.
Eat 30 types of plants per week
A diverse gut microbiota is associated with better health, and in order for bacteria to thrive, you need to feed them well.
A study found that people who eat 30 or more different plant foods each week are likely to have more gut microbes than those who eat 10 or fewer.
“To increase your plant-based intake, try developing new habits, such as switching to wholemeal pasta when cooking, adding an extra serving of vegetables to your plate, or snacking on nuts and seeds,” Ms Travers said.
get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep is critical to overall health, but depriving yourself of sleep can disrupt the connection between your gut and brain.
“Bacteria in the gut are directly linked to the central nervous system, and sleep disturbances can affect the levels of bacteria in the gut,” Travers explained.
According to Henry Ford Health, lack of sleep releases the stress hormone, cortisol, which plays a role in problems with intestinal permeability.
This may be known as “leaky gut” which describes the process of filtering food and toxins through the gut into the bloodstream.
“This can lead to a number of problems, including bloating, inflammation, abdominal pain, food allergies, and changes in the gut microbiome,” said Dr. Ryan Parrish of Henry Ford Health.
According to health experts, adults should ideally get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.
Get in nature
Spending more time outdoors has a big impact on gut bacteria, Travers says.
She noted: “Microscopic particles in the air are colonized by various bacteria that enter us through the air we breathe. outdoors, including in our gardens. It has been shown to improve mental health, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and have a positive effect on stress reduction.
It is also recommended that you expose yourself to daylight early in the morning to help your body know when to sleep at night.
Track what you eat and drink
An easy way to monitor your gut health is to keep track of exactly what you eat and drink and note any symptoms you may have.
Ms Travers said: “An easy way to do this is to keep a food and symptom diary, where you can write down the foods and drinks you eat along with your symptoms, and then share this with your GP or nutritionist who will be in able to help identify any Catalysts.”