You know that weird fact that says humans share about 60% of their DNA with bananas and fruit flies? Well, here’s a new one for you: 50% of your body is comprised of bacteria. Before you start worrying, understand that this bacteria is essential to your health and wellness. The bacteria that dwell in your gut is also referred to as microflora and creates what is called a microbiome, which contributes to your gut health.
Without a healthy gut, your body is going to develop serious health complications, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), weight loss issues, metabolic syndrome, autoimmune conditions, and skin problems.
What Is The Gut?
You can’t understand gut health without learning more about the gut. Our gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) is comprised of the mouth, esophagus, stomach and a serious of hollow tubing, known as the intestines, that ends at the anus. The liver, pancreas, and gallbladder also play a role in the gut and entire digestive system.
What Are The Gut Flora?
Within the gut exists a number of microflora, or bacteria, that aid in the digestion of food and drink. Over three pounds of bacteria—500 species and 100 trillion microorganisms—reside in the gut. While a lot of research is currently studying the relationship between this beneficial bacteria in our gut and our health, there are still a number of unknown variables. However, what has been determined is that probiotics and prebiotics, like those found in yogurt and kombucha, help the bacteria thrive—and when the microflora is thriving, people tend to have less digestive disorders.
Why Do I Need A Healthy Gut?
The GI tract has dozens of complex functions, but the basic job is to churn up the food and drinks we consume, extract the vitamins and minerals, and disperse that nutrition to the rest of the body. If your digestive health is poor, then food won’t be broken down. The energy from the food won’t be utilized, and your body will struggle to repair itself, shield itself from infections and viruses, and will face multiple deficiencies that will damage the organs.
Signs of Poor Gut Health
When your gut health is suffering, you could potentially fall into a condition called dysbiosis. The condition leads to IBS, hemorrhoids, allergies, and even autoimmune diseases.
Here are some side effects of an unbalanced microbiome:
- Bloating and distention
- Excessive flatulence
- Excessive belching
- Decreased appetite
- Acid reflux
- Food sensitivities
- Weight gain
- Confusion and brain fog
- Joint pain
- Bad breath and/or unpleasant taste in mouth
Keep in mind that just because you are experiencing these symptoms, it doesn’t mean that you are in dysbiosis—but you could still be headed there.
If you suspect your gut health is poor, go to your doctor and request to have some tests done. These include a gut permeability lab, which checks for things like leaky gut syndrome, and a comprehensive stool analysis.
What Causes Poor Gut Health?
Gut health is determined by a number of factors. Here are a few common causes of hampered gut health:
This won’t be the first time you read that your diet has a direct impact on your life and health. Food can be medicine or poison, so you need to choose wisely. The obvious perpetrators of poor gut health include processed, simple carbohydrates and gluten-free grains with amylose sugars. These can cause inflammation in the gut. Refined vegetable oils with high levels of oleic acid also promote inflammation and damage your gut. Avoid canola, safflower, soybean, and sunflower oil. Raw foods, like raw broccoli, can also damage your gut health over time because it is harder to digest.
Consistent alcohol consumption (like 3 or more glasses daily) can cause severe gut health issues. Your intestines will be irritated, hormones are suppressed, and gut permeability increases. You also damage the liver—a major player in the digestive system.
High levels of the stress hormone cortisol will damage the gut. Furthermore, when stress is paired with sleep deprivation and lack of oxygen, the microflora suffer. This is why you often suffer from bloat and constipation after long periods of air travel.
Yes, medication can be lifesaving; but it also can allow of pathogenic bacteria to enter your body. Over the counter, NSAIDs can cause intestinal inflammation and 30-percent of consistent users suffer from ulcers.
If you are using such medications, be sure to balance the effects by eating fermented foods and taking a probiotic supplement.
Autoimmune diseases, hormone imbalances, blood sugar issues, and neurological conditions all affect your gut health. Some conditions cannot be controlled or cured, but you can work on re-balancing your hormones, restricting the amount of sugar you eat from your diet and using other measures (listed below) to help you regain your gut health.
How To Improve Your Gut Health
The good news is that your gut health can be improved within 2 to 12 weeks if you start today because the gastrointestinal tract can quickly regenerate new cells. You have a new gut lining every 3 weeks.
For more severe gut problems, healing can take up to 2 years.
Here’s how to improve gut health:
- Eat fermented foods, like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, skyr, and drink kombucha
- Rotate your food – your body needs a wide range of vitamins and nutrients
- Take probiotic supplements to boost your essential bacteria
- Try intermittent fasting to decrease the load on the digestive system
- Reduce the amount of raw food you eat to increase digestibility
- Remove simple sugars and add in sprouted grains; also, reduce consumption of alcohol
- Reduce your stress by practicing mindfulness and mind-body exercises like Qi Gong and yoga
Knowing your gut can help you take control of your life. By restoring balance to the microbiome, you can start to heal more than just GI tract problems. Consider your lifestyle then start making the right choices for your gut.
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