Our guts are made up of a whole microbiome that plays a significant and amazing role in the body. The gut encompasses a variety of bacteria, fungi and microscopic organisms. These little communities of organisms should be welcomed guests as they form our internal microbiome.
Wait a second… I have microscopic organisms living in me to help maintain my health? You bet! Actually, the average person has about 3 pounds worth! While not all bacteria are beneficial, there are many necessary species that our bodies need to function properly. These little helpers live mostly in the intestines and can even be found on the skin.
Ok, interesting, so tell me more…
A healthy gut allows us to eat foods that fuel our bodies with health. The bacteria serve as barriers to invasive microbes, keeping any harmful substances at bay. They help synthesize vitamins and keep our brains functioning optimally, too.
Wait, I thought we were talking stomachs not our heads….
Exactly! Did you know our brains and guts are in constant communication? This is called the gut-brain connection.
Our guts affect our brains, just as much as our brains affect our guts! These two organs are connected physically and biochemically. Knowing this, researchers have found the effects of anxiety and stress on gastrointestinal health. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter often called the “happy chemical” as it plays a role in our happiness and wellbeing. Interestingly, there is a greater amount of serotonin produced in the gut than in the brain. Have you ever felt super nervous and you were holding all your stress in your gut, causing many physical discomforts in your stomach area? This all relates back to our guts sending signals to our brain! They are extremely interconnected.
Maybe you’ve experienced or know someone dealing with leaky gut, fatigue, obesity or digestive disorders. These conditions are results of a poorly functioning gut. A gut of harmful microbes leads to increased inflammation and ultimately a reduced quality of life.
After learning a little more about your amazing gut, do you feel motivated to make some changes?
Just as any goal requires dedication and commitment, healing your gut requires a few lifestyle changes, too. But don’t worry, the changes aren’t complicated and you don’t need to make them out to be either. One step at a time! Remember any step ahead, is a step forward in the right direction.
Great! So how do I do it?
We all have stress in our lives to some degree, as it’s a natural and normal part of life. However, the good news is that we ultimately have control over how we cope with it. With the crazy, busy lives we lead, the first important step is to evaluate where your stress comes from. Is it your career? Family life? Maybe you’ve overcommitted to certain communities of people, etc.
Water is an essential part of life and believe it or not, plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy microbiome. Sipping on water throughout the day prevents dehydration later in the evening. Dehydration is often the headache inducing culprit. While water is necessary, sometimes it can get boring, right? It’s fun to add some fruity flavors such as a squeeze of lemon or orange for a citrus boost!
Consume a healthy diet
You may think this is easier said than done, but it really can be easy! The first step is to eliminate processed foods including chips, foods high in sugar, sodas, factory-made baked goods and fried foods. Some important ones to add, specific to gut health, include:
- Any fruit and vegetable: aim for eating all the colors of the rainbow!
- Omega-3 fats: avocado, walnuts and fish
- Fermented foods: cheese, kefir and yogurt
- High fiber foods: beans, seeds (pumpkin and sunflower), nuts and whole grains
- Tryptophan and polyphenol rich foods: green tea, olive oil, eggs, turkey, coffee (limited) and chocolate (Yes, we did just say chocolate!)
You don’t have to go all in right away with eliminating the unhealthy foods and eating only the ones listed above. This week try not buying any fried foods and add in one fruit and veggie that you’d like to try. There are tons of recipe ideas out there waiting for you to test them out!
Get enough sleep
When we don’t allow our bodies the proper amount of sleep, we feel fatigued and go on with life not able to give our full efforts. Our bodies consider sleep deprivation a stressor, which we are trying to prevent- no more stress! A lack of sleep also means our bodies cannot heal or repair as necessary. An extra hour of sleep can make an incredible difference. We were made to sleep for a reason!
Aim to move your body at least some way every day. If you don’t enjoy going to the gym, that’s perfectly fine! There are plenty of ways to get in some movement. Long walks, a quick run, hiking, paddle boarding, biking, etc are all great ways to have fun and exercise. The goal is to do something that will get your heart rate up!
While there is so much to cover when talking about gut health, we’ve covered the basics with the objective to help you understand why gut health matters. By controlling stress, eating well, getting enough zzz’s and exercising, we are able to provide our bodies with exactly what our guts need to do their job. The little microbe communities know exactly what to do when we provide the resources, so yes, it’s absolutely imperative to trust your gut!