Gut Health: Your 5 Minute Read

Your gut is always trying to tell you something. Whether it’s grunts, growls, or silences, your gut is highly sensitive to everything from your meal choices to your mood.

In fact, the gastrointestinal (GI) tract — aka the digestive system — is one of the body’s most important barometers of health. Approximately 70 percent cells of our immune system live in the gastrointestinal tract.

With a little TLC, we can all have happy bellies. Eating certain foods and avoiding stress triggers is a great start to keeping your gut functioning and comfortable.

And in case of problem? Here are some tips to get your digestive tract back on track.

Your gut naturally contains a host of invisible organisms. This little world is what scientists call the gut microbiome. These organisms are mainly fungi, viruses, parasites and some bacteria.

Some of these microbes are associated with certain diseases and conditions, but others are important for your health and digestion. According to National Institutes of Health (NIH)your gut works best when it’s populated with a wide variety of microbes.

You can help your gut microbiome stay balanced by eating foods that support the growth of “good” bacteria and fungi. Many fiber-rich foods, known as prebiotics, create an intestinal environment that helps these beneficial insects thrive.

Here are some examples of prebiotic foods. These are recommended by Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health:

  • asparagus
  • bananas
  • Beans
  • Garlic
  • leeks
  • onions
  • whole grains (like barley, oats, and wheat)

Believe it or not, many “funky” foods — including that tangy deli pickle in your midday sub — can boost gut health.

When food ferments, helpful microbes grow on it, fed by the sugar molecules in the food. A lot experts think these microbes, called probiotics, can help contribute to a healthy gut environment.

Consider adding the following delicious fermented foods to your diet:

  • kefir
  • Kimchi
  • kombucha
  • pickles
  • Sauerkraut
  • yogurt

Staying active and paying attention to your mental health can also improve your belly.

Evidence suggests that exercise can help balance your gut. Results show that regular aerobic exercise — like brisk walking or cycling a few times a week — can help the good bacteria in our guts thrive.

A calm mood can also help keep your stomach healthy. Neurons in the brain are connected to neurons in the gut – one reason you might feel “butterflies” in your stomach when you’re anxious.

According to American Psychological Association (APA)stress can also upset digestion and is associated with problems ranging from temporary flatulence to chronic bowel problems.

Dysbiosis is a fancy term for when your gut microbial balance is out of whack.

experts say it can happen when you catch a bacterial or parasitic illness, take a long course of antibiotics, or are under severe stress.

Symptoms of dysbiosis include:

  • abdominal pain
  • bloating
  • diarrhea
  • gas

You may develop one or more of these symptoms persistently. These symptoms may be associated with certain digestive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

If you have chronic digestive symptoms, it is important to see your healthcare professional to rule out an underlying medical condition.

We all go through periods when we have avoided good nutrition and self-care, and our bellies may protest in response.

Research from 2017 shows that it is possible to restore the balance of gut bacteria and improve some digestive symptoms through diet and lifestyle changes, including:

  • increase fiber intake from whole food sources
  • manage stress levels
  • sufficiently moisturizing
  • get enough sleep
  • stay active

For everyone – especially for people with irritable or inflammatory bowel problems – reduce sugar contribution is a good idea. Excess sugars such as fructose (in fruits and processed sweets) and lactose (from dairy products) can make stomach discomfort worse.

There’s a reason we “feel things in our gut.” Digestion problems can often be the first sign that you are sick or anxious.

But your gut is resilient. He can be quick to make noise when upset, but he will react easily to healthy changes. Adding more fiber-rich and fermented foods to your diet, reducing your sugar intake, exercising, and managing stress can all help keep your gut microbiome balanced and your belly at peace.

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