If you haven’t heard all the talk about gut health, you may wonder what the fuss is about. While the world of research still has a long way to go in this area, a lot has been uncovered regarding the correlations between your gut microbiome and overall health status.
So, what’s your gut microbiome? Well, your body is filled with trillions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi, collectively known as the microbiome.
The gut microbiome is often referred to as the “forgotten organ.” It contains roughly 1,000 bacterial species that encode about 5 million genes. These bacteria play an essential role in many aspects of human health, including the immune system, heart, and weight.
At this point, the term gut health lacks a clear definition. However, it is essential to know how gut health can impact overall health and how it may affect nutrition and training goals.
In general, gut health refers to multiple aspects of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract (upper & lower), such as the effectiveness of digestion and absorption of food, the absence of GI illness, normal and stable microbiota, good immune status, and a state of well-being.
Let’s look at what a healthy gut looks like.
5 Criteria for a Healthy Gut
Effective Digestion and Absorption of Food
Normal nutritional status, effective absorption of food, water, and minerals, regular bowel movements, normal transit time, and no pain are all indicators of a healthy digestive system. Normal stool consistency and rare nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, or bloating are signs of a functioning digestive system.
Absence of GI Illness
Help prevent acid peptic disease, GERD, enzyme deficiencies or carbohydrate intolerances, IBD, celiac disease, colorectal or other GI cancers.
Normal and Stable Intestinal Microbiota
Help prevent bacterial overgrowth or GI infections and antibiotic-associated diarrhea.
Effective Immune Status
Keep effective GI barrier function with normal levels of IgA, normal activity of immune cells and immune tolerance.
Status of Healthy Guy
A balanced serotonin production and normal enteric nervous system function are essential for a normal quality of life.
Some several symptoms and signs can indicate an unhealthy gut microbiome, including:
Stomach issues – Abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and nausea can all be signs of something wrong with your digestive system. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is essential to speak with a medical professional.
Cravings – If you constantly crave sweet or sugary foods, it could be a sign that your gut bacteria is out of balance. An overgrowth of yeast can cause cravings for more sugar, so if you struggle to control your sweet tooth, it’s worth checking in with your doctor.
Scale going up or down – If you cannot digest and absorb nutrients properly, you could see some weight loss. Other types of bacteria have been linked with weight gain.
Anxious – According to recent research, up to 90 percent of the neurotransmitter serotonin is produced in the gut. This important chemical affects mood, social behavior, sleep, appetite, memory, and even libido. Imbalances in the gut have been shown to trigger depressive-type symptoms.
Poor sleep – Chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia symptoms are linked with gut imbalances.
Skin issues – Skin rashes and eczema, a chronic condition characterized by inflamed and itchy red blotches on the skin, can develop when there is an imbalance in gut bacteria.
Autoimmune condition – Autoimmune diseases affect the body’s immune system and can indicate an imbalance. Examples of autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis and MS.
Why is it that some people’s gut microbiomes become unhealthy? It could be that they were never balanced correctly in the first place. If you were delivered by C-section or fed with a bottle instead of breastfed, you missed out on essential chances to inherit good bacteria from your mom.
For many people, obesity begins in childhood for these reasons.
An imbalance in gut flora can be caused by stress or a high-fat or high-carbohydrate diet. Antibiotics are another major culprit. When we take these drugs, the abundance of good bacteria? in the gut may be reduced by a third, and this effect can last for weeks or months, making us vulnerable to digestive and metabolic changes that can cause weight gain.
Livestock are often given low doses of antibiotics to help them reach market weight more quickly. Studies in mice suggest that a high-fat diet combined with antibiotics can lead to obesity.
The cause of the gastrointestinal disease is still being explored and will vary depending on your unique microbiome. Your microbiome is influenced by factors from before you are even born, so everyone’s source of illness will be different.
Maintaining Optimal Gut Health
The gut plays a vital role in overall health and wellness, yet many people are unaware of the importance of gut health. Current medical research mainly focuses on treating defined GI diseases rather than primary prevention. This is a shame, as restoring gut health can profoundly impact overall health and well-being.
You can do some simple things to improve gut health, and they can have benefits in as little as one day. Here are some tips:
Eat a diverse range of foods: A diverse microbiome indicates good gut health. In particular, legumes, beans, and fruit contain lots of fiber and can promote the growth of healthy bifidobacteria.
Eat fermented foods: Many fermented foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir, contain healthy bacteria, mainly lactobacilli. These foods can help reduce the amount of disease-causing bacteria in the gut.
Eat prebiotic foods: Prebiotics are a type of fiber that stimulates the growth of healthy bacteria (non-digestible carbohydrates). Foods rich in prebiotics include artichokes, bananas, asparagus, oats, and apples.
Eat foods rich in polyphenols: Polyphenols are plant compounds found in red wine, green tea, dark chocolate, olive oil, and whole grains. The microbiome breaks them down to stimulate healthy bacterial growth. Polyphenols may also help to protect against heart disease and cancer.
Take a probiotic supplement: Probiotics are live bacteria that can help restore the gut to a healthy state after dysbiosis. Antibiotics should only be taken when necessary as they can kill many harmful and good bacteria in the gut microbiome, possibly contributing to weight gain and antibiotic resistance.
Manage your stress: Research shows that daily stressors can affect your weight and change the balance of your intestinal bacteria. This can lead to cravings for comfort foods. Practicing relaxation techniques and finding ways to unwind without reaching for food can help reduce stress and improve your overall health.
Breastfeed for at least six months: Children who are breastfed for at least six months have more beneficial bifidobacteria than those bottle-fed, which is important for developing the gut microbiome.