Gut health refers to the collection of bacteria that aid digestion and help keep things moving through your intestines. But is there more to it than that?
So what is gut health?
Have you ever had an upset stomach and wondered what causes all the ruckus down below? The sometimes-not-so-friendly bacteria within the gut are often to blame. Your digestive health depends on the delicate balance between your stomach and it’s bacteria. This balance helps to ensure proper absorption of the food you’re eating and promote regular bowel movements. When bacteria falls out of harmony with your stomach, bothersome symptoms start rearing their head.
Bacteria in our gut may participate in more processes than just the health of the gut itself. More research is needed, but this could be another focal point when approaching your overall health.
Why should gut health be something you care about?
You can think of your gut health as the sounding board for what is working and what isn’t.
In today’s on-the-go lifestyle, Americans are eating a diet high in sugar and processed foods, which may be related to the increasing rate of onset chronic disease such a Type 2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, and many more. The National Institute of Health looked at affects our eating habits can have on our microbiome (the bacteria in your gut). The results demonstrated that unhealthy diets tend to interfere with bodily functions – making it difficult for our body to regulate metabolism, blood sugar, and inflammation.
“You are what you eat” has a deeper meaning when taking a closer look at gut health. We actually are what we eat in respect to how it interacts with the bacteria in our gut and your gut bacteria’s ability to regulate the body’s natural functions.
A healthy vs. unhealthy gut
How do you feel after you eat? Do you experience indigestion, bloating, or frequent runs to the bathroom during the day? These can all be signs of how things are functioning within your gut.
When thinking of a healthy gut, you may consider monitoring how frequently your daily bowel movements occur. Your body’s ability to properly digest and absorb the nutrients from your food directly translate to bowel movements.
Signs of an unhealthy gut could include:
- Mood disorders
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Unanticipated weight loss
What you can do to improve your gut health
While there’s a lot of hype behind probiotic supplementation, there are things you can do right now to feed the good bacteria and keep the bad bacteria from overpopulating.
- Include more plants, whole fruits, and vegetables into your diet. The fiber and antioxidants among these foods are fuel for a balanced gut with less inflammation and better digestion .
- Try fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, or yogurt with live cultures. These fermented foods may help to make your gut bacteria work more efficiently and this can improve your digestion.
- Reduce the amount of sugar and processed foods in your diet.
- Reduce your stress load. Stress releases hormones known to cause inflammation and thus impacts your gut (you know the knot feeling in your stomach you get from time to time). If you need help with managing stress, check out our Shift Program.
There are many things you can do to improve and maintain your gut health. When you become aware of your gut health, your stomach will be a much happier camper.
Have additional questions about your gut health? Make an appointment to talk to your primary care provider today.
The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, an innovative primary care practice with offices in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, DC.
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