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Gut Health refers to wellbeing in the digestive system.
Having good gut health means that all aspects of the gastrointestinal system – from the oesophagus to the bowel – are strong and free from illness. When you have a healthy digestive tract you can easily:
Poor digestion occurs when one or more aspects of the digestive process are compromised.
Digestive disorders can also compromise mental health.
This is because the gut, a.k.a. ‘second brain’, has nerve endings that communicate with your actual brain. This complicated gut/brain axis is why having a bloated tummy or long term constipation can contribute to brain fog, mood imbalances, anxiety and depression.
Gut health for women is another important topic.
Estrogen and progesterone play a role in digestion and gut health. This means that women are susceptible to gut issues as their hormones rise and fall.
Medical professionals agree that the importance of gut health cannot be overemphasised. It’s the reason that gut health foods and gut health supplements are often in the media.
Probiotics are one of the most common gut health supplements discussed.
Walk into any health food shop or pharmacy and you’ll find a whole section dedicated to them. But what are probiotics and why are they one of the most prized gut health supplements?
Essentially, probiotics are live microorganisms. When taken in adequate amounts, they support the balance of good vs ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut. This promotes wellbeing in the digestive tract, hormones, nervous system and brain.
Probiotics also lower systemic inflammation and protect the gut lining. This is good news if you have leaky gut syndrome, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Choosing the best probiotic for you can be tricky though.
While all strains have the potential to support gut health, some can exacerbate digestive symptoms in sensitive individuals. Naturopaths understand the importance of gut health and can help you choose the right probiotic for you.
Many gut health foods contain probiotics, e.g. yoghurt, kefir. The best ones contain live and active cultures and can be a useful way to support gut health on a daily basis.
Digestivet health is about much more than probiotics and yoghurt.
Persistent digestive symptoms make it difficult to take part in life. Work, school, social commitments may all be affected. They can also decrease your wellbeing over time, which is why gut issues need to be investigated by a health professional.
While you may think extreme bloating is something you can live with, it could be a sign of coeliac disease.
Also, you could dismiss daily reflux as ‘just annoying’. But, in reality it could relate to a stomach ulcer or gallstones.
Any gut health issue that remains for more than a few weeks needs to be investigated by an expert. This will help you know whether simple gut health foods and supplements are all you need. Or, if more complex gastrointestinal examinations are required.
Common gut health signs and symptoms include:
Relux, heartburn, bloating, flatulence, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, food intolerances, weight gain, weight loss, nutrient deficiencies, difficulty swallowing, blood in the stools, pain when passing stools, low energy, skin problems, headaches, anxiety, depression, mood swings.
These signs and symptoms may relate to digestive diseases, like:
Leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diverticulitis, chron’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, coealic disease, haemorrhoids, anal fissure, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD), oesophageal narrowing, liver disease, liver failure, hepatitis, gallstones, gastritis, Helicobacter pylori infection, pancreatitis.
Treatment for poor gut health needs to be individualised for each person and relate to the initial cause/s. Common treatments include:
Common causes of gut health problems include:
Here are some natural, drug-free ways to support gut health:
A Healthy Diet that’s full of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and clean water supports digestive health. Inflammatory foods to minimise include red meat, processed/refined sugars, gluten, dairy, eggs, artificial sweeteners.
Foods for Gut Health give extra support to the digestive system. Top choices include yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, fresh pineapple, papaya, garlic, ginger, flaxseeds, chia seeds, chamomile tea.
Supplements for Gut Health help to minimise digestive symptoms and promote gut healing. Excellent choices include probiotics for constipation/diarrhoea, slippery elm bark for leaky gut syndrome, meadowsweet for reflux, st mary’s thistle for liver problems, magnesium for sluggish bowels.
Sleep impacts the gut microbiome. If you’re constantly lacking sleep, stress hormones increase and the balance of good vs bad bacteria is disrupted. Getting adequate sleep is essential for gut health, gut healing and overall wellbeing. Aim for a minimum of 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night.
Exercise helps the digestive system function at its best. It does this by facilitating the movement of energy, nutrients, water, lymph, oxygen and wastes around the body. Gut health issues can develop if any of these substances become stagnant.
The following health experts can help gut health:
Here are 3 things you can do to support someone with poor gut health:
How can I improve my gut health?
Eat a predominantly plant-based diet that’s full of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts and seeds. You can also drink plenty of water, get sufficient sleep and minimise your stress levels to support digestion.
What are 5 common symptoms of gut health problems?
How do you know your gut is unhealthy?
These signs suggest you may have an unhealthy gut: