08 Jan The 411 on Gut Health
I’m sure you’ve heard the term “gut health” thrown around lately, as more and more research suggests that it should be important to us. Whenever anything health-wise becomes popular, we are usually flooded with info and we have no idea what to do with it all or how to act on it. So here’s some information from start to finish that you’ve just GUT to have.
What is gut health? Well first let’s talk about the gut itself. I kind of think of my gut like right below my belly button (like where all my gut feelings are), but in reality, it’s your entire GI tract, which starts in the mouth, goes down the esophagus and into the stomach, and then into the small and large intestines. Trillions of microbes (microscopic living microorganisms) live in our intestines and most of the microbes are found in the large intestine; this is often referred to as the gut microbiome. So gut health is essentially gastrointestinal tract health, but you can probably guess why they just shortened that up a bit.
Why is gut health important? Well, no exaggeration, every time I turn my back it seems like there’s another study stressing the importance of gut health for an array of health reasons. Here are my top 3:
- A healthy gut is filled with bacteria. Yes, you’re reading that correctly. A healthy gut contains GOOD bacteria that supports our immune system. The gut bacteria actually communicates with your immune cells to control how you respond to infection.
- A good gut can handle fiber. We know by now fiber is our homegirl. Well, we need good bacteria in our gut to allow the fiber to pass through. Adding fiber to our diet can help us maintain a healthy weight and aid in the prevention of cancer, diabetes, heart attack, and more.
- Take a deep breath for this last one. The gut drives the brain and the brain drives the gut. That is one powerful statement if you ask me. All the hottest research is now saying that our gut is crucial to the function of our central nervous system which controls… you guessed it, our brain! So if our gut is not healthy, we don’t think clearly, can have heightened stress and anxiety, and it can even cause depression.
How can we improve our gut health? We develop our gut health starting in the womb, but since it’s been a while since most of us have been there, I’d like to focus on some action we can take now:
- Eat a healthy but diverse diet. This will help you build up diverse bacteria. So switch up some of your meals, branch out, & try some new things and start incorporating them into your routine.
- Eat fermented foods:
- Kombucha (personal fave)
- Kefir (they also have pouches of Kefir for kids in the dairy section)
- Yogurt (old faithful)
- Ditch the artificial sweeteners. Some studies have shown that consuming these can actually change your gut bacteria- and not in a good way.
- Eat your fruits & veggies! As if we didn’t already have enough reasons to do this, these foods actually feed our good gut bacteria the nutrients they need. Also, fruits and veggies have the potential to prevent some harmful bacteria from growing in the gut.
- Get more beans, legumes, and foods high in fiber. Fiber is beneficial for gut bacteria because it stimulates the bacteria to grow.
- Lastly, and for my girls, eat foods with polyphenols. My two personal favorites: red wine and dark chocolate. Something tells me this will stick in your mind.