Gut Health: Why It’s Essential to Your Overall Wellness

Lady holding her gut in pain

Over the past few decades, gut health has become an increasingly studied topic, as research continues to find a connection between digestive, mental, and physical health.

What is gut health?

Gut health refers to the well-being of your digestive system, which plays a crucial role in determining your overall health and well-being. The gut is home to trillions of microbes that work together to break down food, absorb nutrients, and protect your body from harmful substances.

Why is gut health important?

Recent research has shown that the gut microbiome plays a far more important role in our health than we ever knew.  As well as digesting food, gut bacteria perform many other important tasks.

  1. Supports Immune System: Your gut microbiome is responsible for 70-80% of your immune system function. A healthy gut helps prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and viruses, boosting your immunity and reducing your risk of illness.
  2. Regulates Digestion: A healthy gut ensures proper digestion and nutrient absorption, reducing the risk of digestive problems like bloating, constipation, and indigestion.
  3. Improves Mental Health: The gut and brain are connected through the gut-brain axis, so gut health can have a direct impact on mental health. A healthy gut has been linked to reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  4. Aids in Weight Management: A healthy gut microbiome can regulate appetite and metabolism, making it easier to manage your weight and maintain a healthy body composition.
  5. Boosts Energy Levels: Proper digestion and nutrient absorption are essential for providing your body with energy. A healthy gut can improve your overall energy levels, helping you feel more active and productive.

How do I know if my gut is out of balance?

Your symptoms will depend on where the bacteria imbalance develops. They may also vary based on the types of bacteria that are out of balance.

Common symptoms include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Bloating
  • IBS
  • Poor digestion
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings

Factors that affect the gut microbiome

There are many factors that can affect the gut microbiome, some common ones include: 

  • Diet. Diet is one of the biggest contributors to digestive health, as it determines which bacteria will thrive in the gut. Overall, a diet that lacks a variety of nutrient-dense foods is detrimental to the diversity and balance of the microbiome in the digestive tract.
  • Medications. These can be harmful to even the healthiest of microbiomes. Antibiotics are vital for the treatment of infections, but they do not distinguish between good and bad bacteria. As such, they can cause a shift in the gut flora.  Other medications such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and metformin have also been shown to alter the digestive microbiota. They reduce the overall diversity which can increase the risk of gastrointestinal issues.
  • Stress. Research indicates that stress plays an important role in overall health, and more specifically, gut health. Elevated stress levels can cause fluctuations in hormone levels and increase inflammationwhich can lead to changes within the microbiome and disrupt the balance of the gut.
  • Physical inactivity. A sedentary lifestyle also impacts gut health as it slows the digestive processes increasing the exposure time to harmful bacteria allowing them to flourish in the gut.

What can we do to protect our gut microbiome?

The key to a healthy, functioning gut is the diversity of the bacteria living within it.

Good gut health starts with what you put on your plate.  There are some things you can do to help maintain a healthy gut microbiome:

  1. Eat plenty of fibre: Fibre is essential for supporting the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Eat plenty of fibre: Fibre is essential for supporting the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Encourage your clients to eat a diet rich in fibre from whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  2. Include probiotics and prebiotics in the diet: Probiotics are live microorganisms that can help improve gut health. Try adding foods high in probiotics, such as yoghurt, kefir, and fermented vegetables to your diet. Prebiotics are the food that probiotics feed on, and they can be found in foods such as onions, garlic, and bananas.
  3. Limit processed foods: Processed foods are often high in sugar, artificial ingredients, and preservatives, which can disrupt the balance of gut microorganisms. Limit your intake of processed foods and opt for whole, nutrient-dense foods instead.

In addition to diet, managing stress, exercise and sleeping well can also support your body’s microbiome.

If you’re struggling with digestive issues, do get in touch and we can have a free chat to discuss your current gut health.

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