What is gut health, how it’s affected and how to take care of it
Your body is full of trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi. They are known as the microbiome.
While some bacteria are negatively associated with disease, there are other good bacteria that are actually extremely important for your immune system, heart, weight and many other aspects of health. This article will explain the gut microbiome, how it can be affected, why it’s so important for your health and how to get your gut health back on track.
What are gut bacteria?
The term “gut microbiome” refers specifically to the bacteria living in your intestines. A person has about 300 to 500 different species of bacteria in their digestive tract. While some of these can make us sick, many are very beneficial and even necessary to a healthy body.
As you grow, your gut microbiome begins to diversify. In other words, your gut produces many different types of species of bacteria that have a unique purpose in your overall health.
How does the gut help your overall health?
The gut microbiome plays a very important role in your overall health by helping to control digestion and boosting your immune system. It can also help to promote healthy skin, better mood and improved sleep.
What are the symptoms of an unhealthy gut?
Some of the most common signs of an unhealthy gut are:
Stomach issues like gas, bloating, and diarrhea can all be signs of an unhealthy gut. These symptoms point to a gut that is having trouble processing and digesting food and eliminating waste.
Unintentional weight changes
Gaining or losing weight without making changes to your diet or exercise may be a sign of an unhealthy gut. An imbalanced gut can sometimes struggle to absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugar and store fat. In each of these cases, the gut could be over- or under-producing bacteria to try and regulate itself.
Skin conditions like eczema can be related to a damaged gut. Inflammation in the gut caused by a poor diet or food allergies can begin to irritate the skin and cause conditions such as eczema.
Food intolerances may be caused by poor quality of bacteria in the gut. This can lead to difficulty in digesting foods and can result in various negative symptoms.
Things that affect your gut health
Jetlag doesn’t just affect your sleep; it can affect your gut too. Research conducted in mice found that the disruption or alteration of regular eating patterns can cause unhealthy changes to the gut’s bacteria. This can lead to a groggy, bloated or heavy feeling in your stomach.
The bacteria in our guts teach the rest of our immune system how to behave. An unbalanced gut can shift the immune system into an increased inflammatory state, which can lead to prolonged illness and diseases like diabetes.
While antibiotics are great at treating unhealthy bacteria that make us sick, they also kill all the good bacteria, which means they can significantly alter the health of your gut. The drastic change in bacteria can lead to negative gastrointestinal side effects.
How long it takes to restore gut health
Building a healthy microbiome can take up to 6 months. But remember to take into consideration your starting point. For example, if you’ve recently taken antibiotics, it might take more time to fully rebuild a healthy gut. And keep in mind that a healthy body, including the gut, is a life-long journey that takes consistency, patience and dedication.
Read more: When Should You See a Dietitian
How you can improve your gut health
One of the easiest ways to improve your gut health is to adjust your diet. Avoid processed foods, fast foods and foods high in refined sugars as they can destroy good bacteria and promote the growth of damaging ones. Instead, focus on consuming foods that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria like:
Foods that are high in fibre like pears, beans, peas, oats, bananas, artichokes, asparagus, and popcorn have shown a positive impact on the gut.
Fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, tempeh, miso, and kefir are high in dietary probiotics, which can support a healthy gut microbiome and prevent inflammation.
Many of the negative side effects of an unhealthy gut can be alleviated by drinking enough fluids, especially water. For example, proper hydration helps with constipation and is needed to replace the fluid lost while experiencing diarrhea.
A dietitian can help!
A dietitian is a healthcare professional who is qualified to assess, diagnose and treat nutritional problems and nutrition-related medical conditions. They can work with you to assess your current health levels and develop diet and nutrition programs tailored to your objectives and personal needs.
So, if you’re looking for more clarity about your gut health, schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian today.
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