How To Improve Gut Health
We hear all the time about the importance of our gut health – but many of us may wonder why this is relevant to our overall wellness, and what we can do to improve it. Before we dive into that, we first need to define what gut health is, along with how the microbiome in the gut contribute to our health – whether in a positive or negative way.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, an estimated 60-70 million people are affected by diseases related to the gut – which is one of the key points as to why health within this realm is so important. This list of diseases includes issues such as constipation, IBS, and hemorrhoids, all of which are common when there are disruptions within the gut.
In the gut, there are trillions of different types of bacteria; most of these are in the intestines, and not all of them are bad! All of these bacteria are classified as the gut microbiome and getting these bacteria to work in favor of your health can reap a multitude of benefits.
We might think that fungi and bacteria should live on the outside of our bodies…after all, we most likely correlate them with illnesses, right? However, the bacteria in our guts begin their job from infancy and becomes more diverse as we age, depending on what we expose ourselves to think of it this way – the more exposure to healthy bacteria we can get, the more our gut is primed and ready to impact health in a positive way.
Amazingly, the gut and the immune system work hand in hand; not only to help reduce inflammation, but to ward off infectious diseases, obesity, and even diseases that can affect heart health.
A characteristic of someone consuming the Western diet will most likely have more processed and packaged foods than not, unfortunately. This diet can also be high in fat, low in fiber – and not giving our gut the diversity, it needs in order to fight off disease and inflammation. Thankfully, there are some ways that you can begin to improve the health of your gut, even if you aren’t partaking in the common Western diet.
For starters, focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods! This will not only have you consuming more fiber but will introduce healthy bacteria into the gut and give you a boost of vitamins and minerals. Staying hydrated also plays a role in gut health; aiming to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water each day will ensure proper hydration and keep the gut running smoothly. Lastly, think about the foods that you eat daily – do you get cramps after a particular food? Do you bloat after a certain meal? Think about what you’re consuming each day, and if you find foods that are triggering to your gut, changing up how often you eat them (or even possibly eliminating them from your diet) can cause a positive change within your gut.
So now that you are aware of the importance of gut health and how the microbiome plays a significant role in your overall health, how can you tell if your gut needs a bit of a boost in the wellness department?
Autoimmune diseases: the data within this field is amazing – and if you’re dealing with an autoimmune disease, checking out the correlation between gut microbiome and your specific condition can be eye-opening. Not only do these gut bacteria aid in overall digestion, but they have also been shown to have an impact on just how susceptible one can be to a disease.
Eczema: although more research needs to be done within this realm in order to determine the exact cause of flare ups, introducing healthy bacteria to the gut is a promising natural treatment for this skin condition.
Stomach distress: anything that is disrupting the GI track – constipation, diarrhea, bloating, etc. can certainly cause issues! Research has shown a correlation between gut bacteria and the role it plays in IBS, so it’s definitely something to check into if you’re suffering from these issues.
As always, speak with your physician if you have questions regarding your gut health, especially if it’s in connection with a specific condition or disease. The gut is highly diverse, and sometimes making minor tweaks to your overall diet can play a significant role in not only the health of your gut, but also in how your immune system operates and how well you combat disease and inflammation. Let your doctor know you’d like to increase and improve the microbiome within your gut, and they can point you in the right direction!