The term ‘gut health’ is buzzing around social media, and you see many food products out there that promote a healthy gut, but should you be worried about your gut? Read on for a tour of your gut, learn what having a healthy gut actually means, and 5 quick tips to gut health.
What is my gut?
Let’s start by introducing you to your gut! Your ‘gut’ is your gastrointestinal tract- running from your mouth to your anus. The GI tract is a hollow tube including your mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine. It gets support from your liver, pancreas and gall bladder, and everything combined is your digestive system.
But there is something else that can’t be seen with the naked eye! Your gut microbiome! Your microbiome has about 10 times more cells (bacteria, viruses, protozoa and fungi) than are in the entire human body (whoa!!), is unique to you, and may change over time.
What does my gut do?
Your gut is a complicated system, and involves a synchronized effort of enzymes, hormones, chemicals and mechanics that help breakdown food and fluids into something your body can absorb and use for energy, growth and repair. As food and fluid moves through the system, different activities happen at each site and everything needs to work together to give your body the nutrients it needs from food and fluids to stay healthy. On top of that, research shows that your microbiome plays an important role in metabolism, mood and your risk of getting sick and developing disease.
How do I know if my gut is healthy?
A healthy gut is a one that you can’t really tell digestion is going on. Everything is working in sync, and digestion is steady and calm. If your gut isn’t working properly, you may be having symptoms like frequent diarrhea, constipation, abdominal distension, bloating, or cramping.
Of course, on occasion, you may have a bit of an upset if you eat something that has way more fibre than you are used to, or ate something that was past it’s prime. But, for the most part, this will just cause some distress for a short period of time, and you’ll go back to normal within a few days. If you experience these symptoms over and over again, you may have something else going on, and should speak with your doctor.
What happens if my gut isn’t healthy?
If your gut isn’t working well, nutrients may not be well absorbed from the food your eat, or food particles may travel into the blood (where it doesn’t belong!), causing inflammation. While this field of study is still fairly new, and we are learning all the time, current research shows that gut health is linked to allergies, arthritis, asthma, cancer, depression, heart disease, diabetes and gastrointestinal problems.
Gut health IS important!
So, it looks like gut health really is important for our overall health and wellbeing. Now all we have to do is keep it healthy!
5 quick tips for a healthy gut
While it’s a complicated topic, that deserves it’s own post, here are 5 quick tips:
- Make half your plate vegetables
- Choose beans, peas and lentils more often
- Limit processed foods
- Have a smal handful of nuts or seeds every day
- Try fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir or yogurt
What can you do every day to help your gut stay healthy and happy? We’d love to hear your thoughts and strategies that work well for you! Reach out on Instagram @branconutrition, Facebook, write us an email or comment below!
Your Dietitian, Erin