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Gut health. The gut microbiome. Let's take a closer look at it… Gut health is a popular topic these days, but with seemingly endless advice on what it means and how to maintain it, it can be hard to separate facts from assumptions. Here, I want to explain the basic facts about healthy gut bacteria as well as give you some tips for improving your gut health.
Gut health - what is it?
"Intestine" is the word for the digestive tract which begins in the mouth and ends in the rectum.
"Gut Health" refers to the overall health of your digestive tract. It is a term that has gained prominence in the last few decades as more research has been done into what constitutes a healthy gut, and how a healthy gut affects our overall health and well-being.
There are different scientific opinions as to what the definition of "gut health" should be. However, broadly speaking, gut health is used to refer to the balance - homeostasis of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract. This is also known as the gut microbiome.
The gut microbiome is made up of many different microorganisms, around 300-500 species of bacteria, and the total number is about 10 times the number of cells in the human body.
We hear about bad bacteria a lot, but there are good bacteria too. Our bodies need good bacteria to function, and the same goes for our intestines. A healthy microbiome should contain a wide variety of good bacteria and should not contain a lot of the bad ones.
The microbiome is responsible for all sorts of functions in your body, including aiding digestion and nutrient absorption, helping to regulate things like bile and vitamin levels, and supporting your immune system.
The health of your gut has a huge impact on your overall health.
Much research is currently being done into the importance of the gut microbiome to overall health and body functions. Imbalances in gut bacteria have been found to contribute to chronic diseases such as IBS, diabetes, and cancer. Research also suggests links to mental health and depression, cholesterol levels and obesity.
While we still don't know everything about the gut microbiome, we do know that our gut health has a huge impact on our overall health. Therefore, improving your gut health can only be a good thing.
Some symptoms that may be a sign of poor gut health include
* Upset stomach or changes in bowel movements
* Gas or flatulence
* Fatigue and trouble sleeping
* Skin problems
* Food sensitivity
All of these things can have many other causes, but you should always speak to your doctor if you have these symptoms and don't know why.
How can I keep my gut healthy?
There are countless products out there today that claim to help you get a healthy gut, but you really should focus on making healthy lifestyle changes to improve your gut health - and therefore overall body well-being.
Here are some top tips for protecting the health of your gut’s microbiome:
1) Eat more healthy, unprocessed foods including fermented food.
It is known that healthy, whole foods nourish the good bacteria in the gut.
Most people do not eat enough fibre. Fibre is found in whole grains, nuts, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Many people advocate an entirely plant-based diet to promote gut health. There is evidence that you don't need to be fully vegan to look after your gut! You should try to eat as many servings of fruits and vegetables as possible.
2) Limit processed foods.
Processed, fast, and convenient foods are generally high in salt, sugar, fat, and other additives. All of this can disrupt the gut microbiome; because any enhancers have the potential to add bad bacteria as well as reduce the good ones. If you want to eat ready-made meals, check labels and choose the healthiest option you can find.
3) Eat carefully and regularly.
A simple but important way to promote good digestion and therefore good gut health is to eat meals slowly and regularly. It sounds easy, but in our increasingly busy lives, so many of us end up grabbing food on the go or gobbling down meals in front of the TV.
Eating at irregular times, skipping meals, overeating, eating too fast ... all of these can impair gut health. If you do this regularly, you may start to see problems. Make an informed decision to eat carefully and regularly. Your intestines will thank you.
4) Reduce your stress level.
Stress is often viewed as primarily a mental problem, but it can be harmful to the entire body. Periods of stress disturb the balance of your digestive tract, aggravating existing problems and even creating new ones.
5) Sleep well
Getting enough sleep is one of the most important steps you can take to stay healthy inside and out. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
6) Drink less alcohol
A few drinks every now and then shouldn't hurt your digestive system but getting drunk should. It may cause your stomach to produce more acid, upsetting the balance of your gut microbiome. If you regularly drink more than six units of alcohol per session (or eight if you're a man), reducing this may improve your gut health.
Prebiotics and probiotics
Probiotics are healthy bacteria. You will find them in products such as:
Prebiotics nourish healthy bacteria, foods like.
Following a few top tips can make all the difference to your gut health, so be sure to give them a go and for great recipes and more tips, head to my Facebook.