I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “listen to your gut“, and while that guidance refers to our intuition, it also refers to our digestion. After all, our gut guides our overall well-being. Quite simply, our gut is the core of our mental and physical health, yet how common is it to hear of people experiencing digestive issues? Digestive complaints have a huge impact on our strength and vitality and if we want better immunity, improved clarity, balance, more efficient digestion then we need to focus on rebuilding our gut health.
I know it always seems like we could be doing something better to improve our health in some way, and sometimes our mission for improved health can be damned right exhausting. Sometimes our health issues can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to chronic diseases, but we have to remember not to focus on the things that are wrong with our bodies but on the healing areas and the things we can control as opposed to the ones we can’t. By supporting and maintaining a healthy digestive system you will see chronic health issues (like colds, aches, pains and fatigue) clear up and your energy will return. Sound too good to be true? It isn’t! My digestion has always been really poor, and when I started focusing on supporting my gut, I experienced better health. Now it’s your turn!
What happens inside your gut?
Your gut holds billions (trillions!) of bacteria that help the break down of food, produce nutrients, and to help fight disease. In fact, there are 10 times more bacteria in your gut than cells in your entire body, and the food choices you make each day directly affect the climate in your guts which can either help or hinder your well-being.
It’s all about balance! When your guts in good shape, about 80-90% of bacteria are ‘good’ bacteria, and the other 15-20% are considered ‘bad’ bacteria. You feel great, you have E-N-E-R-G-Y, you rarely get ill, and life is fantastic. The healthy bacteria are doing their job well – assisting with digestion, producing disease-fighting antibodies, crowding out bad bacteria and producing vital hormones, vitamins and minerals.
But when the bad bacteria attack, its a completely different story. They botch up the works and cause a bunch of painful issues like inflammation and infection which can lead to health issues like allergies, auto-immune disorders, depression, migraine, arthritis, candida and constipation just to name a few…..and then of course, you’re prescribed antibiotics and antacids to attempt to ‘fix’ these health issues, right? Noooooo! Environmental toxins, chemicals, and prescription medications completely wipe out the good and bad bacteria giving the bad bacteria a chance to increase their ranks once again.
Hello chronic health issues.
The key to fixing this works in two ways:
♥ Give your gut a helping hand by feeding your body plant-based, nutrient-dense foods.
♥ Practise a healthy lifestyle that supports the good gut bacteria and keeps the bad bacteria under control (less stress, more exercise, less exposure to environmental toxins & adequate rest).
Your mental health affects your gut health
Your body effectively has two brains. Yup! Scary. The brain and spinal cord (your central nervous system) control all voluntary and involuntary activities in your body. Whereas your guts ‘brain’ is known as the enteric nervous system – home to 100 million neurone within your intestinal wall. These neurone control digestion and send messages up to the brain letting it know how things are in your tum!
So between them, your two nervous systems have an intimate relationship (sweet!). While the enteric nervous system triggers digestion, messages from the brain such as stress and anxiety can have a huge effect on how well it functions too. In addition, the vast majority of serotonin (the happy neurotransmitter than regulates mood, sleep, anxiety and depression), is made in the gut and not your brain, so your gut health can massively effect your mood, emotions, and the state of your mental health.
So know you know how important gut health is. How can you keep your gut in tip top shape?
1. Take a probiotic supplement – Taking a daily probiotic will help boost the good bacteria in your gut while keeping the bad bacteria under control at the same time as boosting your immune system and easing any digestive issues you may currently have. Probiotics may be especially helpful if you are taking any medication, such as an antibiotic that has wiped out a large amount of good gut bacteria. Two probiotic recommendations are Dr. Ohirra’s & Garden of Life.
2. Eat prebiotic whole foods – Certain foods feed and support the growth of good bacteria and by eating more of these whole, plant based, fiber-fich foods, you are fuelling the bacteria that supports your health. Raw garlic, onions, bananas and artichokes are some of the best prebiotic foods to incorporate into your diet.
3. Eat probiotic whole foods – Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, micro algae and coconut kefir contain large amounts of good bacteria and are wonderful plant-based probiotic-rich foods. Avoid anything vinegar based or pasteurised as these kill good bacteria. You want to buy (or make!) fermented probiotics foods. This book can be helpful if you’re interested on the subject – please educate yourself before diving into the world of home fermentation!
4. Stay hydrated – A good rule of thumb here is – listen to your body! You can over hydrate (this especially applies to runners) but drinking, on average 2 litres of clear fluids a day is what you’re aiming for. Your gut needs water to keep bacteria moving waste through your digestive tract, helping prevent constipation and bloating. Being dehydrated can throw the balance of bacteria off kilter and lead to inflammation. Give your gut a hand and drink more H2O!
5. Eat regular meals and snacks – Eating every 90 minutes to two hours if efficient enough to keep your glucose levels from dropping too low, while leaving the periods between eating long enough so your gut gets the chance to clean up and clear out bacteria and waste and also gets a little break from digestion.
6. Stress less – Easier said than done, I know! But up there ^^^ you read about the connection between the brain and gut, right? When you experience stress your brain goes into fight or flight mode, halting the blood flow and digestion in your gut. The muscles that are used to push along food and bacteria freeze up which lead to a poorly functioning gut. Taking care of your gut health through coping with stress with yoga, meditation, therapy and other stress reduction techniques can help not only your gut but in other areas of life too.
7. Cut down (or cut out!) refined sugar and junk – Consuming processed and sugar-laden foods give your gut a feast, automatically increasing the chances of the former bull s*** that weighs you down and dulls your shine.
How are you helping your gut health today? And if you’ve struggled with gut issues before, what helped you to recover?