Is it Time to Improve your Gut Health?
Is it Time to Improve your Gut Health?
If you’re pounding handfuls of pricey probiotics every morning but still suffering the gut issues they were supposed to cure, then perhaps it’s time to get to the real root of the problem. To do that, we’re going straight to the gut.
What is gut health?
We think about our gut as the dark and mysterious place where digestion happens, but it’s a whole lot more than that. About 15 years ago, scientists began to understand that our gut actually behaves like a second brain, coining it the “gut microbiome”. What begins in the digestive system plays a huge role in your body as a whole and directly impacts your overall health.
The Gut-Brain Connection
The connection between the gut and the brain is fueled by countless microorganisms. Operating from the gut, their job is to send signals to the brain. Encoded within these messages are the firing signals that determine your immune strength, serotonin and other hormone levels, digestion, and even your heart rate.
This information is communicated via the vagus nerve, the main component of your central nervous system. Studies have shown how the vagus nerve modulates your inflammatory responses that are responsible for bowel and gastrointestinal disorders, as well as issues like depression and posttraumatic stress disorder.
Not only does the vagus nerve send important messages from your gut to your brain, but your all-powerful gut can also operate your immune system completely independently. So, the next time you say, “My gut tells me…”, you might actually be right. Your gut health is a strong reflection of your overall well-being.
Meet Your Microbiome
The microbiome refers to the entirety of this well-oiled system of communication. Your unique community of bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses has a massive influence on your health. When your gut is healthy, things operate smoothly. When your gut bacteria are out of balance, you’ve got problems. If these issues are left
unattended, they could result in disease and the development of autoimmune disorders.
Signs of a gut bacterial imbalance:
- Gas or bloating
- Skin inflammation
- Weight fluctuation
- Moodiness or irritability
- Chronic fatigue
Surprising Factors That Influence Your Gut Health
Large-scale farming and industrialization have done a number on our environment. Chemical pesticides run deep into the soil of commercial farmlands, breaking down soil through overuse. Ultimately, this means our food is carrying heavy toxin loads and delivering fewer nutrients. There are growing concerns about the presence of emulsifiers in our food, as well as micro plastics that leach into what we eat from their packaging. These toxins have an immediate and lasting impact on the gut, and in turn, the health and resilience of the microbiome.
In our always-on-the-go culture, we aren’t reminded to prioritize a healthy diet. Even if we keep health at the forefront of our minds, it’s not always easy to find whole, healthy, quality food unless you’re preparing it at home. With soil contaminants and non-equitable access to healthy food, it’s no wonder we’re seeing rising cases of
digestive issues, chronic liver diseases, pancreatitis, gastritis, and celiac disease worldwide.
How To Build A Healthier Microbiome
So, what does a healthy gut really look like, and how can you boost your gut health? The good news is that with just a bit of foundational nutrition knowledge, you can eat your way to a healthier microbiome.
It Starts With Your Diet
You’ve probably heard that diet plays an important role in long-term health, but what does it mean to eat for longevity? A 2021 study published in the journal Nature concluded that high levels of microbiome diversity were linked to living a longer, healthier life. By studying the makeup of the gut microbes of centenarians, they
identified specific enzymes and bacterial strains that were shown to decrease the participant’s susceptibility to chronic inflammation, age-related illnesses, and other infectious diseases.
The most robust study supporting the connection between diet and longevity was published in 2016 by the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. Their findings are based on 20 years of data that focused on seven locations around the world. These places have been coined “Blue Zones”, and the dietary habits might sound familiar.
People in these regions have the following in common:
- They eat lots of vegetables
- Local olive oil is the primary fat source
- Fish is consumed in small amounts, 2-3 times per week
- Dairy and meat products are limited
- Moderate amounts of alcohol are consumed, usually red wine
Consider Your Lifestyle and Habits
If those dietary principles look like something you’ve seen before, then you’ve probably come across, or perhaps you even embrace, the principles of the Mediterranean diet. It’s a simple strategy of eating mostly vegetables, embracing locality and seasonality to take advantage of the highest nutrient values from just-picked produce, and aiming for diversity in what you consume. That’s a natural perk of eating seasonally, one that’s been thwarted by our tendency to ship (and package in plastic) food so readily around the world.
Unhealthy habits that can affect your microbiome go beyond the plate. Keeping your vices (like smoking, not getting enough exercise, and drinking too much alcohol) under control. Depending too heavily on antibiotics when you’re ill, rather than washing your hands more frequently to aid in the prevention of illness, can also wreak havoc on your gut. Antibiotics wipe out all of the bacteria, the good and the bad. So either during your illness or after you’ve stopped taking the antibiotics, it’s a good idea to reach out to a gut health expert to ensure you’re replenishing your good gut bacteria.
Sleep and stress also play a big role in gut health. A 2019 study linked a lack of gut microbiota diversity to insomnia, and another study from 2018 demonstrated the role of the gut-brain axis in sleep regulation. The quality of your sleep directly influences your circadian rhythm, and irregular sleep patterns can initiate a vicious cycle leading to mood disorders, inflammation, and metabolic disease.
Embrace Functional Nutrition
Choosing to lean a bit deeper into food habits, like the Mediterranean diet, is the first step. Prioritizing uninterrupted, quality sleep and minimizing some of your not-so-good habits is the next step to better gut health. But it’s also important to remember that everyone’s body is different.
What works for someone else might not work the same way for you. It could be that the problem has persisted over years and requires a bit more attention than just a dietary reset. Because your microbiome is just as unique as your thumbprint, your needs may be different. There is, however, something you can do to better understand your body and what it needs to thrive. That’s where functional nutrition can really come to your rescue.
A Functional Nutritionist is someone who specializes in understanding your unique gut. They help identify your triggers in terms of food and can recommend specific ways to improve your overall health, starting with the root… your gut. By looking at the root causes of the issues you’re experiencing, our microbiome experts are
helping patients every day who are struggling with IBS, SIBO, and LEAKY GUT.
An Easier Path to Better Gut Health
In today’s world, it can be hard to find and take the time to research and pinpoint what could be causing your gut-related issues. A healthy diet and a lifestyle focused on physical and emotional well-being are non-negotiable. If you want to dig a bit deeper to discover the root cause of what’s ailing you, reach out for a consultation.
Our team knows what it’s like to live with gut issues, and we’re well-versed in the interconnectedness of the body. When we’re able to tap into the root of the issues you’re experiencing, not only will you start to feel better, but the real culprit(s) behind your gut issues just might surprise you.