Most of us think of the digestive system as a relatively simple system made of a long tube that allows food to pass through, then absorbed, and finally excreted. However, the gut is more complex than that because research has revealed a close link between Gut Health and the body’s immune system.
The term gut microbiome refers to the microorganisms that live in the intestine. Certain types of these microorganisms are good for your health, and their absence would cause some diseases. In equal measure, some of the bacteria cause diseases.
It is crucial to have good bacteria in the gut because they help the immune system. We can help improve gut health in various ways, but let’s first examine what can contribute to having an unhealthy gut.
Signs of the unhealthy gut
Life in the 21st century is fast and demanding. Consequently, people have less time to rest and sleep but eat a well-balanced meal. Eating processed and high sugar foods, high-stress levels, and taking antibiotics frequently damage the gut microbiome.
The poor gut microbiome affects the skin, hormone levels, weight, immune system, brain, cancer development, and ability to absorb nutrients. The common signs of unhealthy gut health include;
1. Stomach upset
The signs that you’ve got upsets in the stomach include gas, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn. These conditions make it difficult for the gut to process food and eliminate waste.
2. High, refined sugar diet
Protein foods and added sugars decrease the good bacteria in the gut. This causes an imbalance in the gut, causing increased craving for sugar, further damaging the intestines. Excess amount of refined sugar is linked to inflammation in the body. Inflammation is arguably one of the precursors to many diseases and cancers.
3. Sudden weight changes
Abrupt gain and a loss of weight that is not a result of a diet exercise routine may be a sign of gut challenges. Imbalance in the gut impairs the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, absorb nutrients and store fat.
A condition known as small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can be explanatory behind sudden weight loss. On the other hand, weight gain may be precipitated by insulin resistance or the irresistible urge to indulge due to decreased nutrient absorption.
4. Fatigue and interrupted sleep pattern
One with an unhealthy gut may experience sleep disorders such as insomnia, therefore, leading to chronic fatigue. The hormone that controls sleep is significantly found in the gut. So if the gut is damaged, your sleep can be disrupted. It is worth noting that some sleep interruptions have also been related to the risk of suffering fibromyalgia.
5. Irritation of the skin
Conditions such as eczema are related to a damaged gut. Food allergies can cause increased leaking of some proteins out in the body system, which irritates the skin to cause conditions such as eczema.
6. Food intolerance
Food intolerance differs from a food allergy. Food intolerance is the state where people have difficulty digesting some kinds of foods. While food allergy is caused by the body’s immune system reaching to certain foods.
It’s purported that the poor quality of the microorganisms causes food intolerance in the gut. Therefore, one has difficulty digesting the trigger food. Some symptoms of food intolerance include bloating, diarrhea, nausea, gas, and abnormal pain. It is also believed that some food allergies are related to gut health.
7. Autoimmune disorders
Scientists in the medical field believe that an unhealthy gut can increase the chances of having systemic inflation. Autoimmune disorders, where the body damages its own cells rather than foreign invaders.
How to improve gut health
1. Reduce stress levels
Chronic stress affects the body system, including the gut. It is advisable to find ways of lowering stress levels. Some of the ways include; walking, yoga, owning a pet, spending time with friends and relatives, getting a massage, decreasing caffeine in drinks, laughter, and any other pleasurable activity.
2. Get sufficient sleep
Sleep helps the body to rejuvenate and gives digestion a chance to work on the food. Denying yourself sufficient quality rest can hurt your gut, which again causes serious sleep issues.
3. Stay well hydrated
Drink plenty of clean water more frequently. Water hydrates the mucosal lining found in the intestines and also balances the good bacteria in your gut. Make it a habit to always take at least glasses of water daily. You can squeeze a lemon or orange slice in the water to add some flavor and help you drink more.
4. Take probiotic
Prebiotic or probiotic are excellent supplements. They are also good for gut health. Prebiotics supply “food medium”, meant to facilitate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.
On the other hand, probiotics are live bacteria. If you have an overgrowth of bacteria such as small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) you’re advised not to take probiotics. It is advisable to seek your doctor’s advice when deciding the prebiotic or probiotic supplement to ensure the best outcome.
5. Check for food intolerance
Are you experiencing symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, cramping, rashes, nausea, acid reflux, and fatigue? These may be symptoms of food intolerance. Eliminate any food item you may suspect is a trigger for intolerance. Once you identify the food, you might note a positive change in your gut health.
6. Alter your diet
Reduce your intake of high-sugar and processed foods because they contain certain microorganisms that contribute to poor gut health. Unsaturated fats are also bad for the gut. Replace these food items with plant-based meals and lean protein. Such food includes beans, peas, fish, and chicken. Foods rich in fibre have proven to increase body metabolism and more so a healthy gut.
Ideal foods for healthy gut microbiome
The following foods promote the growth of bacteria in the gut.
- Onions and garlic-they have properties that enhance immune system function
- Fermented foods-such as kimchi, kefir, miso, and sauerkraut. They’re a good source of probiotics.
- Collagen-rich foods such as bone broth and salmon and mushrooms.