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What is gut health and why should you pay more attention to it?

Gut health

Your gut is home to a community of trillions of microorganisms. This includes bacteria, referred to as community microbiota, which resides in your stomach and intestines. Ultimately, everything we eat and drink directly influence this community of microorganisms. Additionally, how we handle stress, our exercise habits, the medication we take and even our genetics play a role. So, when we discuss gut health, we’re essentially talking about how well this community – primarily influenced by our lifestyles – functions.

The benefits of good gut health

Having a healthy gut influences your overall well-being. More specifically, key advantages include:

Improved digestion – A healthy gut aids efficient digestion, which allows our bodies to break down and absorb the necessary nutrients from the food we consume. Conversely, it also helps get rid of harmful toxins.

Better nutrient absorption – When you have a balanced gut  microbiota, it improves nutrient absorption. Evidently, this results in better overall nutrition. 

Reduced inflammation – Chronic inflammation, which can manifest in health issues like Rheumatoid arthritis or eczema, can be better regulated as a result of a well-balanced gut. 

Stronger immune system With a fairly significant portion of our immune system residing in the gut, it makes sense that a healthy gut supports the body in defending against illnesses.

Better Sleep – While the research is still emerging, there are indications of a link between our gut health and our sleep. Therefore, a healthy gut could contribute to better sleeping patterns. Subsequently, this could influence optimal brain functionality, as well as our mood.

Signs you might have poor gut health

Gut health

There are various ways in which poor gut health can manifest. However, many of these symptoms and signs could also be influenced by other factors. Also, having some of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean that you have poor gut health.

Weight fluctuation – Weight changes that you can’t explain – like having difficulty losing weight – could be related to gut health.

Low energy – If you’re often feeling tired, like you’re not functioning optimally, this could be a result of poor nutrient absorption in your gut.

Food intolerance – Perhaps you’ve started to experience discomfort after you’ve had a meal, or you’ve suddenly developed sensitivity toward certain foods. This could also suggest an issue with gut health.

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Simple tips to improve your gut health

Gut health - Alex Raths

Drink less alcohol and more clean water – Alcohol affects the ratio between good versus bad bacteria. Less alcohol means a better-balanced ratio.

Reduce sugar intake – Make a point of cutting out foods that are high in processed sugars.

Exercise regularly – We’re not saying get a gym membership, but a moderate level of exercise boosts the level of gut microbes. 

Diversify your fruit and vegetable intake – Keep it interesting and varied. Between fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices, it’s not that difficult to eat the suggested 30+ different plant foods each week. 

Fermented foods – Adding more fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha or yogurt can help improve your digestion.

It’s less about being militant and more about being aware of what you eat and how it makes you feel.

Sources: health.clevelandclinic.org  | www.franciscanhealth.org  | www.bbcgoodfood.com 

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