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Gut Health

Updated: Jun 21, 2023


Your gut is the foundation of your health. Everything from your digestion to your mood ties back to your gut in some way. ​​We also know there is an important link between the health of the gut and our brain and hormones (aka the gut-brain axis or GBA). The GBA includes all of the connections between our central nervous system and our enteric nervous system—and these connections play a vital role in metabolism, immunity, and hormonal health."

If your gut is out of whack—meaning the ratio of good bacteria to bad is off—you'll feel it. Gut microbial abundance and diversity is critical for whole-body health.


Do you have gut issues?


Gut issues can be obvious (think gas, bloating, and/or constipation), but that's not always the case. Sometimes you'll experience sneakier signs, like difficulty concentrating, mood swings, and skin issues. Here are some signs that your gut microbial balance might be off:

  • Gas/flatulence

  • Bloating

  • Excessive belching

  • Frequent heartburn/GERD

  • Diarrhea

  • Constipation

  • Mood disorders

  • Poor concentration

  • Trouble with learning and memory

  • Skin rashes or acne

  • Sugar cravings

  • Weight gain

  • Poor sleep

  • Lowered immunity


But why does this happen?

There are a number of reasons your gut can get thrown out of whack, but poor diet is one of the biggest contributors. Bad bacteria and yeast thrive on sugar and processed foods (a foundation of the standard American diet), while good gut bacteria prefer fiber and prebiotic fiber especially, which most people don't eat nearly enough of, only about 5% of the population meets their daily fiber needs.


That said, while certain foods may be generally categorized as "gut-healthy foods," you also have to consider any potential food intolerances that may be unique to you. Such intolerances can contribute to a "loose" or permeable gut wall—a phenomenon also referred to as "intestinal permeability" or "leaky gut" by many functional health experts.


When the permeability of the gut lining has been altered, this allows toxins, bacteria, and foreign substances like undigested food particles to enter the bloodstream along with the nutrients.

This may also ladder up to digestive issues, autoimmune issues, hormone imbalances, food allergies, and other manifestations like joint pain.

And while your diet is important, it's not the only thing that can promote gut imbalance. There are so many factors—both societal and structural, environmental, and behavioral, that can impact gut health, I like to refer to the "social determinants of health model" to get a more holistic view.

On an individual level, some other things that can negatively affect your gut include:

  • Travel

  • Lack of sleep

  • Alcohol intake

  • Prolonged stress

  • Certain medications (e.g., frequent or extended antibiotic use)


Improve your gut with a gut healthy diet


Prioritizing gut-healthy foods can have a massive impact on gut microbiota, helping bring things back into balance. Here are a few key factors to consider:


1. Prebiotics

Focus on getting plenty of fiber and complex carbohydrates, which feed good bacteria. Prebiotic foods, like asparagus, flaxseeds, artichoke, and jicama are especially helpful. "These prebiotic foods aren't easily digested or absorbed. Instead, they bypass your small intestine and beeline into your colon, where, among their many benefits, they feed the good gut bacteria to create healthy, energy-producing short-chain fatty acids.


2. Probiotics

There is also good research to suggest that probiotic-containing and fermented foods, like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, tempeh, kombucha, and miso, in conjunction with an overall healthy diet and lifestyle, can promote good gut health. You may also consider a targeted supplement to help support the good bacteria in your gut, too.

3. Polyphenols

Polyphenol-rich foods, like berries, cherries, plums, beans, nuts, artichoke, and spinach, can increase the amount of helpful Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus bacteria in your gut.


4. Plant diversity

Aim to eat 30 different plants per week from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and herbs)—or as many varieties as you possibly can.


5. Mindful eating

And don't forget to chew your food. There are important enzymes in your saliva that start the digestion process. If you don't adequately chew your food, it puts more work on the digestive system and can lead to bloating, gas, and other digestive symptoms.

Of course, it can also be beneficial to limit certain triggers. Sugar can be the worst offender since it can feed bad bugs and create an imbalance in the gut microbiome. He also recommends limiting processed foods, artificial sweeteners, gluten-containing grains (if you're sensitive), and dairy products (with the exception of yogurt and kefir). But like with all things, moderation is the key to a healthy and balanced lifestyle.


Overall

Your gut influences everything from your digestion to your mood. While many things can contribute to poor gut health, your diet is one of the most influential.

A gut health diet helps feed the good bacteria and starve out the bad, restoring balance in your gut microbiome and helping you feel your best. Plant fibers and fermented foods are especially beneficial, while sugar and processed foods can promote imbalance.


Gut health meal plan.

A gut health diet doesn't have to be complicated. To learn more or schedule an appointment with our Nutritionist or Life Coach:


Nutrition Coaching:


Life Coach:


Many Blessings,

Tammy

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