The importance of gut health is becoming more and more obvious as new scientific data shows the link between the gut, brain, and immune system. But if the data is available, and healthy food options in demand, why people struggle with gut health is still a mystery. Perhaps genetics, habits, income, environment, and our overall view of health in our society is to blame? Whatever the case, the importance of gut health and why people still struggle with it will be discussed further in this article. Lack of information and understanding could help explain why people struggle with gut health. More than 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates (the father of modern medicine), suggested that all disease begins in the gut. And there is no doubt about it, your gut and your health go hand in hand as we are all becoming quite aware of. With rising awareness about this important symbiotic relationship, research is showing just how important our gut is in keeping our immune system and overall health running optimally.
The Importance Of Gut Health Within The Body
First, let’s discuss what gut health means exactly in terms of today and what scientific data has shown us. You might be surprised to know that gut health is not only related to your digestive system, but the body as a whole. Technically speaking, our gut is the gastrointestinal system each of us have within our body. It is also referred to as the gastrointestinal tract, digestive system, digestive tract, or group of organs that includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small intestine, colon, and rectum. Each of these organs contain essential bacteria, and unfortunately for some harmful bacteria, also known as “gut microbiome” in order to function properly. The term “gut microbiome” refers specifically to the microorganisms living in the intestines. It is amazing to think that the average person has about 300 to 500 different species of bacteria, weighing close to seven pounds, in their digestive tract. While some microorganisms are harmful to our health, many are incredibly beneficial and even necessary to a healthy body and immune system.
The internal and intricate systems within our body work together as a whole, leaving each role essential in overall health. In other words, when one system is unhealthy or struggling, it can therefore affect all other systems in some way. A person can usually tell when there is something wrong with their gastrointestinal system; the symptoms can be uncomfortable, embarrassing, or downright painful. Why people struggle with gut health can be attributed to being overwhelmed in where to start in helping the gut. But what you might not know is that there are a number of ways you can improve your gut health, and not all of them start with your gut. Changes in gut health are often caused by changes in stomach acid, immunity, and your gut microbiome. Learning what you can do to help these various factors in gut health is very important, and could explain why people struggle with gut health.
Why Feeding The Gut What It Needs To Thrive Is Crucial
When people think of eating food, the main reason is usually to satisfy hunger, cravings, or sticking to a particular diet for weight management. But in reality, eating foods to nourish your body as a whole should be the focus. Lack of knowledge and effort could explain why people struggle with gut health. Taking the time and effort to explore your options in eating well can have exponential benefits in your life. By choosing what foods to eat to help with gut health, you are helping to keep your body functioning smoothly and the immune system running strong.
For most of us today, we are very lucky in that we can find a variety of fresh and healthy foods just steps or a short drive away. But in the same token, there are plenty of health deterring convenient options far less expensive such as fast food restaurants. These types of restaurants could also be to blame why people struggle with gut health, as they are very tempting in our fast paced society. Fast food diets are generally high in fat and low in fiber, which can throw off your gut microbiome balance. This may reduce the growth of good bacteria that produce beneficial short chain fatty acids like butyrate, known to play a role in reducing inflammation. IBS, discomfort, and other gut problems are almost always associated with inflammation of the gut. One way to tell if the foods you are consuming are hurting or helping you gut is to see if you feel any physical discomforts. Stomach disturbances like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn can all be signs of an unhealthy gut. Avoidance of unhealthy foods, and knowledge of which foods to eat for overall nourishment is imperative to gut health.
Foods For Nourishment And Gut Health
Eating foods such as salmon for Omega-3’s, or fermented foods for Probiotics, or grass-fed meat for B-12 and protein are examples. What you eat doesn’t just travel through your gut, it nourishes and supports it from start to finish. Cranberries help balance the bacteria within the mouth, for example. Foods high in fiber help improve gut health by adding bulk to your stool, making it easier to pass. But in the example of high fiber foods, they do more than just help you move biomass along. They also act as a prebiotic, or fuel for good gut bacteria that fight inflammation and chronic disease. Prebiotics are foods that feed healthy gut bacteria. Foods like onions, garlic, spinach, beans, bananas, and whole wheat are all excellent sources of prebiotics. Probiotics are also imperative to gut health, as they help maintain the population of good bacteria in your gut. Probiotics are live bacteria like those in yogurt or fermented foods such as kimchi, refrigerated pickles, or sauerkraut. Adding fiber, prebiotics, and probiotics to your diet can help support a healthy gut.
Keep in mind, not every person’s body is the same, and some are more sensitive to certain foods than others. Limiting fats and animal products, and eating plenty of prebiotic and probiotic foods can be more supportive for good gut bacteria in some people. While a diet rich in grass fed meats and dairy, healthy fats, and many vegetables with no grains may be better for others. Finding out what works for your body, and gut health functioning optimally takes time and awareness by the individual.
Lack Of Movement And Sleep Deprivation Affect Gut Health
Perhaps why people struggle with gut health is due to the focus only on diet changes and foods as well. Along with food nourishment, other factors affecting gut health should be taken into consideration. Factors such as daily movement, healthy activities, exercise physically ad mentally, sleep, and meditation or stress relief actions should be addressed. Getting adequate sleep is necessary to rest and restore our bodies from the past day’s activities, for example. Without enough sleep, we may not have enough energy for our digestion to function as well as it should. If you have ever done a liquid cleanse or fast, you understand just how much energy digestion takes within our body to perform.
Sleep deprivation and irregularities could also help to explain why people struggle with gut health, even if a healthy diet is utilized. Studies have shown that lack of sleep causes food cravings, which can therefore lead to overeating. This is especially observed with emotional eating or comfort foods that can contribute to weight gain and obesity. Which in turn, obesity has been linked to many digestive diseases like GERD, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, colon polyps, and gut inflammation.
Movement May Prove To Help Improve Gut Health
If the gastrointestinal tract needs to run smoothly physically, maybe the body as a whole does too! Movement throughout our day, whether it be stretching in the morning, walking to work or class, or going for a brisk walk may be more beneficial then we realize. Especially for those individuals who work in a cubicle, or confined environment for much of their day. Or for retired individuals that tend to stay home and enjoy TV for long periods of time. Regular exercise is good for your heart and can also help keep your gastrointestinal system running smoothly. Not only does exercise help maintain a healthy body weight, but low-intensity exercise can help keep stool moving through and out of your system. But also keep in mind, if a person experiences gastrointestinal issues, avoiding high-intensity workouts may worsen the problem. This type of activity can slow down digestion by shifting blood away from digestion, to support your hard-working muscles.
Could Stress Explain Why People Struggle With Gut Health
It’s not uncommon for most people to experience an upset stomach or a queasy feeling when under stress or anxiety. Interestingly enough, that’s because the digestive system and brain communicate through nerves that connect the two. When an individual experiences stress, the brain responds by releasing stress hormones that can disrupt the digestive system. Long-term, that can aggravate conditions like heartburn, ulcers, and Crohn’s disease. The gut-brain connection is more than a reaction to stress, however. It’s a two-way sharing of information. If you suffer from gastrointestinal disorders, your gut may send signals to your brain that cause depression or anxiety. Likewise, if an individual suffers from depression or anxiety, the brain may send signals to your gut causing gastrointestinal issues. Both gastrointestinal and mental health issues are hand in hand, which could explain why people struggle with gut health that are also battling mental adverisites.
Avoidance Of Antibiotics And Antimicrobial Cleaning Products In Excessive Use
Why people struggle with gut health may also be linked to their fear or lack of understanding of different bacteria. Daily use of antimicrobial cleaning products may be necessary in some cases, but be cautious in overusing them. Excessive use can also sterilize a healthy bacteria population, one needed to balance unhealthy bacteria within our body and environment. Cleaning and personal products with antibiotic or antimicrobial properties can also kill good bacteria along with the bad bacteria we want them to kill. Disrupting the balance of bacteria in your gut can lead to gastrointestinal issues. There are many cleaning products available today that help to deter and eliminate bad bacteria, while also being less harmful to our body and good bacteria.
Another culprit that undermines gut health is regular or consistent use of antibiotics for bacterial infections. Antibiotics can be harmful to gut bacteria long-term, so it’s important to only take them when necessary. The use of antibiotics has long been linked to deprivation of gut bacteria, as taking antibiotics can dramatically change the amount and type of bacteria in the gut. These changes in the gut microflora can lead antibiotic-associated diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal side effects. That’s one reason why doctors recommend taking antibiotics with food. Now, a new study shows that the composition and function of gut bacteria can recover after antibiotic treatment in healthy people. But after six months, the gut still lacks nine common beneficial bacterial species. Which is why eating prebiotic and probiotic rich foods is essential in rebuilding a healthy gut bacteria, or gut microbiome.
Eliminate Your Struggle With Gut Health By Staying Knowledgeable
The best an individual can do in keeping a healthy gut is staying knowledgeable and proactive. Probiotics play a key role in supporting gut health. In fact, the word probiotic actually means “for life”. These inconspicuous, life-enhancing bacteria support a strong immune system, improve digestion, and synthesize various nutrients. Did you know that supporting the health of your bacterial ecosystem is your first line of defense against illness and disease?! Hence the importance in knowing not only what foods to eat to help with gut health, but daily life activities as well. Acknowledging the importance of healthy daily activities such as movement and exercise, getting adequate sleep, and practicing stress or anxiety relief activities are all crucial. Eliminate your struggle with gut health by staying in the now, and utilizing your best efforts.