What is Gut Health?
The gut (gastrointestinal tract) is your digestive system. Starting at your mouth and ending at your anus, the gut processes food and drink to absorb nutrients and passes excess fluid and solids as urine and stool. For your stomach and small intestine to absorb the nutrients easier, food needs to be broken down. Your teeth aid in this process by chewing food. The chemicals in your stomach (enzymes) also work to break down food even further. Nutrients that are absorbed enter the bloodstream which are then transported around the body.
Your gut is a very complex system and studies over the past two decades have shown that your gut health can affect your overall health. This includes your immune system, mood, mental health, autoimmune diseases, endocrine disorders, skin conditions and cancer.
Additionally, there are microorganisms (or bacteria) living in your intestines. You will have 300 to 500 different species of bacteria living in your digestive system. Some are beneficial for your health whilst others are harmful. For example, some bacteria promote inflammation whilst others reduce it.
Some bacteria can lower your immune function, increasing your risk of diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and some cancers. When talking about your gut health, in most cases, it refers to the bacteria in your digestive tract.
How can I improve my gut health?
There are a number of things that you can do to improve your gut health including:
- Lower your levels of stress
- Get enough sleep – 7-8 hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep
- Eat slowly and chew your food more
- Improve your diet by reducing the intake of processed, high-sugar and high-fat foods
- Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water – refrain from sugary, carbonated, caffeinated and alcoholic drinks
- Check for food intolerances – avoid trigger foods
- Use a prebiotic or probiotic – A prebiotic is a supplement that uses nutrients from food to promote the growth of good bacteria. A probiotic is a supplement that contains live good bacteria.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
What are the symptoms of an unhealthy gut?
Here are some of the signs that may indicate an unhealthy gut:
- Upset stomach – This includes discomfort in the stomach and symptoms including gas or an ‘unsettled’ stomach, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea and heartburn.
- A high sugar diet – processed foods with added sugars can reduce the amount of good bacteria in your gut. The imbalance can cause a craving for sugar leading to inflammation.
- Unintentional weight changes – Fluctuations in your weight without significant dietary or exercise changes could be an indication of an unhealthy gut. A bacterial imbalance can hinder your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugar and store fat.
- Interrupted sleep or regular fatigue – if you’re not sleeping well enough, you could be suffering from regular fatigue. Serotonin is a hormone produced in the gut and it affects your mood and sleep. As a result, poor gut health can lead to poor sleep.
- Skin irritation – Eczema is a skin condition that can be related to a damaged gut. Inflammation caused by a poor diet or food allergies can lead to certain proteins ‘leaking’ and causing your skin to irritate.
- Autoimmune conditions – An unhealthy gut can reduce your immune function leaving you vulnerable to autoimmune diseases. This is where your immune system attacks the body instead of attacking harmful invaders.
Food intolerances – Not to be confused with an allergy, an intolerance is where your body produces a negative reaction to certain trigger foods. The difficulty in digesting the food can lead to symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, gas and bloating.
What are the worst foods for your gut?
- Fried food
- Too much citrus and fibre (great in moderation)
- Processed foods and artificial sugar
- Too many beans can cause gas and cramping
- Raw broccoli, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables can be harsh on your stomach causing it to become unsettled
- Spicy food can cause indigestion or heartburn
- Dairy products
- Peppermint, chocolate and coffee can cause heartburn
Whilst your stomach is protected from acid by a mucus lining, your oesophagus is not. Heartburn occurs when your stomach acid burns your oesophagus.
How do I clean my gut?
There are a few different methods you can use to help clean your gut including:
- Using a specially formulated Gut Health Supplement like Gut Magic
- Warm water and lemon – flushes out toxins
- Intermittent fasting (up to 16 hours)
- Eat foods that contain complex carbs and healthy fats
- Consume foods that are high in collagen
- Avoid processed, high-sugar, fatty foods and drinks
- Reduce stress
Taking a probiotic or prebiotic
Why is it important to have a healthy gut?
Your gut allows your body to grow, repair and develop. Over two decades of research has shown that your gut health is vital for the overall healthy function of your body. An unhealthy gut can lead to a variety of problems including:
- weight gain (an increase in body fat percentage)
- a reduced immune function leading to autoimmune diseases, endocrine disorders and skin conditions
- mood regulation
- mental health problems
- heart disease
- multiple sclerosis
- some cancers