If you’re like many of my clients here in Stamford, CT, you want to do what it takes to stay fit and healthy. You exercise regularly and eat a well balanced whole food diet, plus get adequate hydration and a good night’s sleep. There’s a lot of talk lately about the benefits of having a healthy gut to supplement a fitness program. Luckily, many of the things my clients are already doing are part of the program to assure a healthy digestive and elimination system.
What is good gut health?
You may think you’re alone in life, but guess what, you’re walking around with groups of microbes living inside you. You have trillions of microorganisms living inside you or around you. One estimate of the amount is about 100 trillion. If they all huddled together on a scale, there’s an estimate that bacteria could weigh a pound or two. In the gut alone there are between 300 and 1,000 different species with about 30 to 40 species making up the bulk of the microbes. The bacteria help digest food and make certain nutrients during digestion and makes them available to their human host available. Without gut bacteria, no matter how much you ate, you’d die of malnutrition.
Signs of an unhealthy gut vary.
There are various studies that link poor gut health to autoimmune disease, mood disorders, mental health issues, cancer, skin conditions, general health issues and food intolerance. Sleep disorders can be linked to an unhealthy gut and unintentional weight changes, both gaining and losing, without changing overall diet. If you’re a sugar addict, it’s not only the cause of poor gut health, it’s also a result. Eating sugar can create an imbalance that leads to cravings for sugar. Of course, digestive issues are always a leading issue with poor gut health.
Taking probiotics may help, but there other things you can do, too.
The problem with taking probiotics, is that you don’t always know what bacteria you need and which you’re missing. However, eating fermented food like kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and yogurt (with live cultures) helps. Studies show high fiber foods do, too. Garlic and onion also may be beneficial, just as collagen boosting foods, like bone broth and mushrooms.
- Lower your stress level with exercise or meditation and breathing exercises. You’ll benefit your body in a number of ways besides just dealing with stress. Stress takes its toll on all parts of the body, including the gut.
- Get plenty of sleep and stay hydrated. Just like eating sugar leads to sugar cravings, getting inadequate sleep can lead to poor gut health and insomnia. Staying hydrated boosts gut health.
- Avoid highly processed foods and stick with whole foods with lots of fiber. Many studies show that fiber can help boost beneficial bacteria in your gut.
- Eat slowly and chew, chew, chew. The slower you eat and the more digestion that takes place in your mouth, the less digestive disturbances you’ll have. That can lead you on the road to better gut health.