“All disease begins in the gut” ~ Hippocrates. It is by no means a new concept, but it is only recently that we have started to pay attention to our gut health and the impact that it has on our overall health. You may be wondering what your gut has to do with illness and disease, how to tell if your gut is healthy and what to do if it isn’t.
What is gut health?
We have an abundance of microorganisms that live on our bodies (there are ten times as many of them as there are of our own cells!). They also live in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract. These little critters are often referred to as the gut microbiota, gut flora or gut bacteria. A healthy gut has the right combination of bacteria (there are 1000s of varieties!) present and they are happily doing their job:
- assisting with digestion
- producing nutrients
- protecting the GI tract lining
- influencing immune responses
Symptoms of poor gut health.
Stress, poor diet and the environment are factors that can contribute to an unhealthy gut. When harmony no longer exists, the ability of our gut flora to do their jobs is compromised. You may experience any of the following symptoms:
- anxiety, depression and other mood disorders
- intestinal discomfort (bloating, gas, diarrhea)
- food allergies or intolerances
- poor immune health – sick often
- colorectal cancer, neurological disorders, and autoimmune disorders have been linked to altered gut flora
How to support gut health.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you may like to try some of the following tips for supporting your gut flora:
- avoid antibiotics unless necessary – they can wipe out the ‘good guys’ with the ‘bad guys’
- limit sugar, junk/processed foods and alcohol
- eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
- take a daily probiotic supplement
- eat good quality yoghurt
- eat fermented foods – eg sauerkraut
- drink fermented drinks – eg kombucha, kefir
- exercise, get plenty of sleep and reduce stress triggers
Supporting our gut flora is vital to our overall health and wellbeing. If you look after your gut flora with a healthy diet and active lifestyle, they will look after you.