You might have heard of the importance of a healthy gut – but what does this actually mean? There’s around 40 trillion bacteria in your body, mostly in your intestines. This is collectively known as your gut microbiota, which is hugely important to your health. However, some bacteria can also contribute to ill health. The food you eat really impacts the types of bacteria living inside your gut. For this reason, it’s important to start getting acquainted with your gut health.
What does good bacteria do? What does bad bacteria do?
Our gut is very complex, but studies have shown links between gut health and the immune system, mood, mental health, autoimmune diseases, endocrine disorders, skin conditions and cancer. Our gut is the complex manager of so many bodily processes, which is why it is important to promote good bacteria and discourage bad bacteria, which can lead to ill health. Problems like candida, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), insulin resistance and stress can all impact your gut health for the worse.
What are the symptoms of depleted gut bacteria?
Upset stomach – things like bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhoea, and heartburn can all be signs of an unhealthy gut 🤢. A balanced gut can process foods better and eliminate waste.
Unintended weight changes – gaining or losing weight suddenly and without changing anything about your diet or exercise habits can be a sign of an unhealthy gut. This imbalance can impair the ability your body has to absorb nutrients, regulate your blood sugar and store fat.
Sleep disturbance or fatigue – it is possible our gut health can affect our sleep 🥱. The majority of our body’s serotonin, the hormone that impacts mood and sleep, is found in the gut. Gut damage can impair our ability to sleep well.
Skin irritation – things like eczema are thought to be related to a damaged gut.
Autoimmune conditions – because of the link between the gut and immune system, an unhealthy gut can increase systemic inflammation and affect the immune system’s functioning. This can aggravate autoimmune diseases where the body attacks itself instead of invaders 🤺.
Food intolerances – this means more trouble digesting certain foods, which is different to an allergy (which is an immune reaction to foods). Intolerances can be due to poor quality bacteria in the gut and lead to other unpleasant things like bloating, gas, abdominal pain and nausea.
Okay, with the basics covered, what can you do to promote good bacteria and eliminate bad bacteria? Here are our tips for a healthier gut:
Eat a diverse range of foods 🥗
Eating a diverse range of foods is really important for your gut health. We need diversity in our diet for good microbiota in the gut. Mix up your weekly recipes, try new foods, and make sure you have plenty of different colours on your plate!
Eat fermented foods 🦠
These foods include:
These foods are becoming newly trendy, though many of them are actually ancient foods. They are often rich in lactobacilli, a bacterium that is really beneficial to gut health. Some studies show that those who eat yogurt regularly can improve symptoms of lactose intolerance and reduce bacteria that causes irritable bowel syndrome. But be aware of sugars hidden in your yogurt. Go for plain, natural yogurt instead.
Stress less 💆♀️
Chronic stress can really impact your gut health. Take up meditation 🧘♀️, walking, go and find ways to treat yourself, spend time with friend and family, or consider lowering your caffeine intake. Consider your work-life balance, how often you exercise and spend time resting.
Don’t eat artificial sweeteners or a high-sugar diet 🧁
Processed foods and added sugars can really decrease the number of good bacteria present in your gut. This imbalance can cause more sugar cravings, which impacts on your gut even more! Avoid high amounts of refined sugars, like high-fructose corn syrup. This has been linked to creating inflammation in the body. Aspartame has been shown to impair insulin response – so reconsider those soft drinks!
Eat plenty of whole grains and veggies 🥒
Fruits, veggies and whole grain foods are high in fibre which is essential for your gut. High fibre foods include beans and legumes, raspberries, artichokes, green peas, broccoli, apples, and almonds. Studies have shown that a diet with plenty of fruit and veg prevents the growth of some bad bacteria.
Eat plenty of polyphenol-rich foods 🥦
Polyphenols are a plant compound with benefits that include reducing blood pressure, reducing inflammation, cholesterol levels and oxidative stress. Good sources include cocoa and dark chocolate, red wine, green tea, almonds, onions, blueberries and broccoli.
Take a good quality probiotic 💊
Choose a good quality probiotic from a reputable site like Cytoplan. Probiotics are live microorganisms and can help change the composition of microbiota in your gut to support your metabolism.
Get more sleep 😴
If you’re not getting enough sleep this can impact your gut and then that in turn can contribute to more sleep issues. Start creating a good wind down routine each night – reduce screen time, take a bath before bedtime, or start meditating 🧘♂️!
We hope this helps explain the importance of your gut health for your overall wellbeing. Take advantage of these tips and tricks and see the positive impact you can make to your health today.