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HOW TO BOOST GUT HEALTH? (PART 1)

An unhealthy gut is detrimental to your overall health in general. Your gut carries out important functions for your body like food digestion, nutrient absorption and vitamin production. Gut, also known as gastrointestinal (GI) tract, decreases inflammation in your body as it fights diseases and infections.


What is a healthy gut?



The gut is home to trillions of bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microbes known as the gut microbiome. Some of these microbes are helpful, signifying a symbiotic relationship with our body that benefits both the human body and the growth of these microorganisms. These helpful microbes produce vitamins, fatty and amino acids that support efficient digestion, mood regulation and immune function. On the other hand, some microbes are potentially harmful or pathogenic that cause diseases. From your immune system and nervous system to your digestive functions and mental well-being, gut microbiota plays an important role in your general health.


A healthy gut entails the presence of more symbiotic microbiota than pathogens. So a healthy body is one that maintains this balance between helpful and harmful bacteria.

Dysbiosis or imbalance within the gut microbial population makes your body more susceptible to disease.


Why does gut health matter?


A healthy gut maintains:

  • Strong Immune System

  • Healthy Heart

  • Brain Health

  • Quality Sleep

  • Improved Mood

Most importantly a healthy gut aids in effective digestion that provides you with more energy and strength to do all the things you would usually feel too exhausted to try.


How to boost gut health?


An unhealthy gut can be caused by infections, an imbalanced diet, chronic stress, smoking or overuse of antibiotics or other such medications that destroy gut bacteria.

Now, let’s look at some ways you can improve your gut health:


  1. NUTRIENT-RICH, BALANCED DIET:


Cut down foods that are high in sugar, salt or contain trans fat. Restrict consumption of fried or processed foods as much as you can. Trade these bad dietary choices with food choices that support healthy gut bacteria. Include foods high in fibre and probiotics.


Fiber can reduce the risk of developing digestive conditions as it reduces constipation and regulates bowel movements. Probiotics are made of both bacteria and yeast that add to the population of healthy microbes in your gut to support healthy bacteria balance.


Are you not sure which foods are gut-friendly?


  • Animal-based food such as Meat, and raw dairy.

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables

  • Fermented vegetables like kimchi, pickles

  • Legumes, beans

  • Whole grains like oats, barley, quinoa

  • Nuts like almonds, walnuts, pistachios

  • Bananas

  • Garlic, Onions

  • Probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, buttermilk, kombucha

Start your day with protein-rich food like eggs etc. If you are a vegetarian then cottage cheese along with some fermented seasonal vegetables and if required then a fruit or two can be included. You can also go for raw milk (if you are lactose tolerant) or buttermilk which is highly probiotic and can immensely improve the gut environment.


2. REGULAR EXERCISE:

Research has shown that exercise boosts the population of helpful bacteria in the gut. A review published in 2019 concluded that exercise can cause both qualitative and quantitative changes within the gut microbial composition.


When you exercise, important changes take place in your body. You inhale more oxygen that goes to your brain and bloodstream and your body temperature goes up. Physical activity also increases the blood flow to muscles present in the digestive system. These changes actually help the good bacteria in your gut to flourish. Exercise strengthens the diaphragm and abdominal wall and encourages the production of Vitamin B and K which play a vital role in the digestive process. It also stimulates your nervous, muscular and endocrine systems.

Furthermore, regular movement of the body can lead to regular bowel movement. This is especially helpful if you suffer from constipation or other digestive issues.


Include strength training exercises. If for some reason you cannot include that then include walking, yoga and some other floor exercises.


The gut microbiome is perpetually in an active and perceptive state. Like every meal you eat impacts your gut, so does your movement throughout the day.


3. QUALITY SLEEP:

Adequate hours of sleep is vital for your health in general. But a lack of sleep can be harmful to your gut and cause hormonal disturbances. It can increase your stress hormone, cortisol, which in turn can lead to intestinal permeability issues. These issues, also known as the leaky gut, allow food and toxins to pass through the intestine and into the bloodstream. The consequences of this condition include bloating, inflammation, cramps, GERD, and inflammatory bowel disease.


These hormonal disturbances due to lack of sleep can also affect hormones that control hunger leading to an increased appetite. It can also lead you to make poor dietary choices like consuming processed carbs and artificial sugar for quick energy boosts.


Sleep deprivation can also affect melatonin levels. Melatonin is a hormone that helps us fall asleep as well as assists in regulating gastrointestinal mobility. It is produced by your body during the night time. Disturbance in melatonin levels can lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease and cause difficulty in sleeping.

Our bodies are complicated and each organ and hormones are intricately connected. Imbalance within one area can result in a domino effect. Therefore, getting enough quality sleep is a must to maintain good digestive and overall health.


Your lifestyle, your choices, your health. It is an interconnected relationship that influences each other. Just remember you can do whatever you put your mind to. A healthy gut keeps your mind sharp and your energy levels high so that you can also do things that you have been too tired to take up.


Like the long list of organs within your GI tract, there is a long list of ways to keep your gut in the best shape! This article was only part 1. You can find more ways in our next article, ‘How to boost gut health: part 2’ on our website.

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