Ever wondered what exists inside your gut?
Gut is a part of our gastrointestinal tract that is linked to various complicated biological processes. And maintaining a good gut is directly proportional to enjoying a healthier lifestyle.
It’s interesting to note that trillions of bacteria are known to live in our gutand are responsible for the functioning of important biological activities such as the immune system, metabolism, and weight regulation. Known as the “second” brain, the gut influences our behavior on a day-to-day basis. A lot of diseases and overall health can be predicted based on the health of our gut.
What is the gut microbiome?
As mentioned before, our body is full of trillions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. They are collectively known as the microbiome. Most of the microbes in our gastrointestinal system are found in a “pocket” at the beginning of the large intestine, and they are referred to as the gut microbiome. While some of these bacteria are associated with harmful diseases, many others are extremely important for maintaining our immune system, healthy heart, weight regulation, etc.
The gut microbiome is known to affect our body since day 1 — when we are born. As we grow older, the gut microbiome begins to start containing many different types of microbial species, meaning there’s a high diversity in the microbiome. Higher diversity of bacteria is linked to better health. Each of these bacteria is known to be responsible for a special function in our body.
The various different ways by which the microbiome affects our body are digesting fiber (that helps with weight regulation), controlling our immune system, and helping control our central nervous system (that helps us manage stress).
Signs of an unhealthy gut
There are many signs of an unhealthy gut, such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, and stress. Following a high-processed diet reduces the good bacteria which leads to further sugar cravings resulting in a vicious cycle. Other signs of poor gut functioning are unintentional weight changes, sleep disturbances, and adverse effects on the immune system. Inflammation in the gut caused by a poor diet or food allergies may also cause skin conditions such as eczema.
The good news is our gut health can be improved anytime by following a few simple tips. The most effective way to improve our gut health is by diversifying the microbiome through consuming varieties of food, managing stress, and others.
Research suggests that a diverse microbiome can function better than a microbiome with limited types of bacteria because if one microbe is unable to fulfill its function, another is available to do the work.
7 ways to improve gut health:
A healthy gut is a balanced gut. If there is an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria, it leads to serious diseases, risk of inflammation, and other health complications.
Below are some of the tips and strategies to keep your gut healthy. Do try to incorporate them into your daily routine and see a change in your well-being.
1.Eat right to promote good bacteria
Gone are the days when you said no to mom’s homemade curd. Both our families and research studies tell us that consuming probiotics restore gut bacteria to healthy levels. Not only does it reduce inflammation, but also helps with digestion.
Some of the fermented and cultured dairy products that contain live beneficial bacteria are curd, yogurt, kefir. Other probiotics foods include certain pickles (eg: kimchi, sauerkraut), sourdough bread, and cheese. These can be made at home or store-bought.
Ginger, garlic, turmeric are anti-bacterial sources that help curb harmful bacteria in our gut. Dark chocolate also helps since it contains polyphenols that ferment themselves and help release anti-inflammatory chemicals.
The habit of drinking water doesn’t get old. Along with many other benefits, drinking plenty of water is said to have positive effects on the inner lining of the intestines while balancing the good bacteria in our gut.
3.Exercising towards gut health
It’s hard to believe that exercises have yet another benefit — improving gut health!
But it’s true. A person who leads a sedentary lifestyle has a lesser diverse microbiome compared to someone who gets in a decent amount of exercise every week. Therefore, it’s not just what we put into our body that counts, there are so many other lifestyle aspects involved in improving gut health.
Simple and light activities such as walking, jogging, and dancing help in diversifying the microbiome.
Yes, dental health! Multiple studies have found that bad bacteria that grow in the mouth often travel their way into the gut. Maintaining good dental hygiene by keeping potentially harmful microbes at bay improves our gut health.
5.Get ample sleep
Both quality and quantity of sleep is linked to a better gut health. Getting insufficient sleep affects the microbiome which in turn disrupts our sleep cycle. Try getting 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. If you need to consult an expert, do reach out to sleep specialists who are certified to give you remedies for a healthy sleep routine.
6.Avoid fad diets
Fad diets often have extreme restrictions such as avoiding a particular food group or reducing the consumption of a particular item. Any or all of these practices cause the harmful growth of bad bacteria. Well-balanced, varieties of food in our diet help diversify our gut microbiome, thereby eliminating diseases and other health complications.
For example, carbohydrates are essential in maintaining gut health. There are two different types of carbohydrates – digestible carbohydrates such as sugar and starch, and non-digestible carbohydrates such as fiber. Fiber is accessible to the gut and is vital for digestion, absorption, and transportation of nutrients.
Have you ever felt a slight stomach ache every time you faced a stressful situation? It happens because there’s a close connection between your gut and stress levels. Maintaining a healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut helps alleviate stress levels and promote mental health. Consider having a healthy fiber-rich breakfast to kickstart the day on a positive note. Or follow a well-balanced diet with consumption of water at regular intervals to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle.
Who knew gut health plays such an important role in our lives? Well, now you know. It goes beyond just eating the right food. Think about following a healthy lifestyle whether it’s including well-balanced probiotic-rich fiber-rich food, managing stress, sleeping well, and drinking ample water.
After all, we want to be able to say the line, “Wait! I have a gut feeling that I’m doing the right thing.”