People from all over the world are now increasing their awareness and educating themselves about the importance of personal health, hygiene, and a balanced diet. There is also a clear indication of how improving your immunity is now a necessity! While there are several remedies right now for all these factors, recent studies from the medical industries have shown the utmost importance of improving and maintaining your gut health, and the link between gut health and immunity, fatigue, mental health, mood changes, depression, stress and cancer.
What is Gut Health?
The gut, also referred to as gastrointestinal system or tract, is a group of several organs such as the mouth, stomach, liver, pancreas, intestines, colon, etc. that are solely responsible for the digestion of food in a body. Once the food is swallowed, there are several enzymes and hormones released in the intestines that help in breaking down the food items into simple molecules, which in turn provide the energy we require. (1) As you can see, the gut is extremely vital in improving and maintaining your overall health and immunity.
Gut health, however, refers to microbiomes, which are made up of several micro-organisms and bacteria that live inside the digestive tracts of the body. These microbiomes are also known as gut flora and are highly beneficial and essential for a healthy human body. There are also several harmful ones, the ones that cause diseases and other infections well. A good gut health ensures the balance between these two categories of microbiomes. (2)
According to Dr. Elizabeth Hohmann of the infectious diseases division at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, “This is a new frontier of medicines, and many are looking at gut microbiota as an additional organ system.” Several studies have already proven that certain food products, habits and environments can help you improve your gut health.
Why is Gut Health Important?
According to MedicalNewsToday.com, “Gut health refers to the balance of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract. Looking after the health of the gut and maintaining the right balance of these microorganisms is vital for physical and mental health, immunity, and more.”
Every human being has a varied and distinctive types of microbiomes inside them and contain numerous groups of bacteria and viruses. This microbiota play an essential role in absorbing the nutrients and minerals from the food. Especially the vitamins and acids that are present in the food items, and also help in detoxifying various toxins that enter from different sources. It is important to remember that some microbiomes are harmful to health, while some are beneficial too, and improving gut health essentially requires a balance between both the types. (3)
If the imbalance between the microbiomes persists for a longer duration, it can cause further issues such as a leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome, different allergies and other illnesses that may require additional treatment and therapy. Similarly, if the balance is disrupted, the harmful bacteria take over and can cause chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, severe constipation, asthma and can also lead so obesity.(4)
According to Harvard Health Publishing, there is now an evident link between the gut and the brain, where the microbiome imbalance can lead to anxiety, depression, dementia and stress. Improper gut health has also been associated with hair fall.
Symptoms of Improper Gut Health (according to Healthline.com)
- Upset Stomach/Stomach Pain
- High Sugar Diet
- Unintentional Weight Changes
- Unusual Sleep Cycles
- Food Intolerances
- Acidic Reflux
- Autoimmune Diseases
- Food Intolerances
- Food Allergies
- Skin Irritation
- Metabolic Disorders
What affects Gut Health? How can I improve it?
There are numerous factors and activities that affect the health of you gut. But more interestingly, most of these factors are associated with your diet, habits, lifestyle and other environmental factors!
- Identify the triggers: The first step is to identify what exactly is causing the improper gut health symptoms in your body. In some cases, such triggers can be associated with various food items such as wheat, milk, raw ingredients and so on. It is important to understand the difference between food allergies and food intolerances.
Food allergies occur when the body identifies an ingredient such as a protein, as harmful and produces high levels of antibodies called immunoglobulin.
Food intolerances are more of an issue to do with the digestive system. Your body digests food much slower and this allows the harmful microbiomes to increase in number.(5)
- Elimination Diet: An elimination diet is a diet that gets rid of all the triggering food items that your body cannot tolerate, or is allergic to. For example, certain cooking oils are known to cause inflammatory issues in the body. The elimination diet gets rid of such oils and uses cold pressed oil as an alternative, opts for a gluten-free diet and also includes Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA) that are a healthy type of fat. (6)
- Cleansing Therapy: The cleansing therapy refers to the cleansing of the liver and intestines. This is done with the help of liver detox juices such as Beetroot, Orange, Carrot and Green juice, according to kent.co.in. The cleansing therapy helps get rid of toxins from the body and promotes healthy digestion. (7)
- Rejuvenation Therapy: The rejuvenation therapy introduces the use of prebiotics and probiotics foods, drinks and supplements. Probiotics help restore the gut health, as they contain many bacteria and micro-organisms that are similar to the microbiomes in the gut. Similarly, prebiotics are found in high-fiber foods and are not broken down by the digestive system, which then act as food for the gut microbiomes. Prebiotics and probiotics can be found in items like yoghurt, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, chick peas and beans. (8)
- Re-introduction of Eliminated Diet: The eliminated diets are re-introduced at this stage, one at a time or in groups, while actively looking for symptoms that may cause any disruptions or reactions in your body. If you notice no symptoms after introducing any food items, it means that it’s safe to move ahead with the next group. (9)
- Sleep Strategies: Sleep deprivation is known to cause several issues in your body such as obesity, heart diseases, stress, etc. A recent study by PubMed Central, “A change in your sleep cycle has harmful effects on the microbiomes in your gut. Sleep deprivation causes an increase in harmful bacteria that are responsible for weight gain, diabetes and fat metabolism.” (10)
- Life-style Balance: Having a healthy and an active lifestyle clearly has a positive impact on your overall health and helps avoid harmful diseases and infections. Smoking, excess drinking and lack of exercise has a significant impact on your gut health. A study by the US National Library of Health also suggests that stress is another important lifestyle factor that affects gut health, and can lead to IBS. (11)
As you can see, maintaining a healthy gut has several benefits, both physically and mentally. In such times when one must be extra cautious and aware about their immunity and overall health, gut health cannot be overlooked. A healthy gut helps you avoid several health challenges such as sleep deprivation, stress, diabetes, bad breath/body odour, hormonal imbalance, weight gain and also helps you reduce bloating, acidity, acne, hair fall and food cravings!
It’s time to listen to your gut feelings, literally!