It’s all the buzz right now: gut health, and for good reason too - the gut is the epicentre of health - so when it comes to this trending topic, we are talking more than just improving digestion. The health of the gut impacts *most* other systems within the body, which is why gut health, isn’t just gut health. Let’s take a look…
GUT HEALTH IS DETOXIFICATION
When I say detox, you think… Liver! Right? The liver is the organ most of us jump to when it comes to detoxification, because, well, it is a major filtering organ. But have you thought about what happens after the liver filters out the harmful toxins and unnecessary metabolic waste from our bloodstream? These waste products need to exit the body, and this happens through the intestinal tract, the gut.
But what happens when the gut isn’t functioning optimally, it’s sluggish, overburdened, inflammation has caused it to become “leaky” - all the hard work the liver has done to process this waste and send it on the way out, is wasted. You see, the intestines' job is to absorb the broken down nutrients from our food into our bloodstream. The issue that we have with this also being a major detoxification pathway, is that when it is working in “go-slow-mode” or there is leaking through the junctions between the gut and bloodstream, some of the waste products, especially things like excess hormones (hello, hormone imbalance), get reabsorbed back into circulation.
For this major detoxification pathway to function at its best, we need the health of our gut to be at its best, too!
GUT HEALTH IS IMMUNE HEALTH
Gut health and the function of the immune system cannot be separated, because the gut houses between 70-80% of our immune cells! More than this, the makeup of our gut flora (microbiome) actively influences how our immune system responds to different antigens. These little microbes actually teach our immune cells what to react or not react to - some soothe an immune response and some stimulate an immune response. You may have heard of the term, dysbiosis or an imbalance of your gut bacteria, this is essentially when we have too many hot heads that stimulate the immune system causing it to be completely out of whack, creating inflammation when it is not necessary, and this inflammation doesn't just stop in the gut, it goes beyond to the entire body.
GUT HEALTH IS NUTRIENT ABSORBTION
This one is a given, right - if our gut health isn’t up to par, we aren't going to be absorbing the nutrients from our food as well as we should, but what does this mean? Simply put, malabsorption, even slight malabsorption will impact literally every function within your body, because even though you may be ingesting the nutrients your body needs, you aren't digesting and therefore being able to utilise the nutrients your body needs.
// Here’s the major ones we see, the first, red flags if you will, when it comes to impaired nutrient absorption. Having a diet high in beautiful essential nutrients, but:
- Consistently has low energy levels
- Suffers from digestive symptoms - bloating, diarrhoea, pale coloured stools, pain
- Shows signs of specific nutrient deficiencies
GUT HEALTH IS EMOTIONAL HEALTH
The gut brain axis, one of the most fascinating things in the human body (in my eyes) - this is where we can really witness the connection between our physical and our emotional body’s. I don’t have to explain the physical feelings that occur when we feel a deep emotion, the sinking in the gut, the butterflies, because I’m sure you have experienced this physical sensation in relation to an emotional feeling at least once in your life.
Now let’s get textbook // neurons. Neurons are nerve cells, one of only two foundational cells that make up the central nervous system. We have about 100 billion neurons in our brain, which makes sense right? But here’s the thing, we also have about 500 million neurons in our gut which are connected to the central nervous system via the vagus nerve. So much is yet to be discovered about the “gut brain” but what we do know is that the gut and the brain are innately connected and we don't need a textbook to confirm that, we can feel it.
Aside from the literal connection between neurons in the gut and brain. Mental and emotional health is also hugely impacted by the role the gut, or rather the microbiome, plays in serotonin creation… 95% of it for that matter. That's right, the microbiome in your gut creates 95% of your serotonin, which is one of our “happy” hormones (as well as a sleep hormone). This is where the importance of happy gut flora comes in again, because if our gut flora isn't happy or there is dysbiosis, we will not have adequate serotonin production, as it is the microorganisms that make this important neurotransmitter, not us, so we need to keep these little guys happy.
GUT HEALTH IS FULL BODY HEALTH
So, as you can see, gut health isn’t just gut health, it’s full body health. If you are looking for somewhere to start on your way to creating vibrant health, the gut is where it’s at. Some simple ways you can start to improve your gut health today would be:
- PROBIOTICS // Get yourself a great quality, broad spectrum (meaning lots of different types of good bacteria) probiotic like BePure TWO. I’m sure you can see why we need to keep the “good guys” on top in our microbiome! Supplementing with a probiotic is a fast way to increase your good gut bacteria.
- PREBIOTICS // Increase your intake of prebiotic dietary fibre - think fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds! These are the foods that feed our microbiome, so they can keep healthy and keep us healthy in return!
- FERMENTED FOODS // Experiment with different fermented foods which contain probiotics. Things like kombucha, sauerkraut, miso. But don't go too crazy too quickly! Introduce these into your regular eating habits slowly.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners. These chemically synthesised ingredients are bad news for your microbiome and newer research is showing the connection between artificial sweeteners and increased inflammation and immune reactivity.
- GET PHYSICAL! Exercise, even gentle exercise improves the tone of the intestinal tract, helping to increase the effectiveness of intestinal contractions and bowel motility. If sluggish digestion is an issue for you, get out for some refreshing walks or even search for an at home pilates workout on Youtube. Consistency is key!