Gut health is probably one of the lesser-known fields of personal health but is now starting to get the attention it deserves.
Your gut health resides mostly in your lower intestine (colon) and is home to your gut microbiome. This is a community of trillions of microbes involved with important functions such as maintaining a healthy immune system, metabolism, digestion, mood and stress levels. The microbes in your gut microbiome outnumber all of the other cells in your body put together. That’s pretty insane. What’s more, 90% of your body’s serotonin is produced in the gut. That is the same serotonin that regulates mood, appetite, digestion, sleep, memory and sexual desire and performance.
Gut health is probably more important than you thought.
Your gut should be thought of as an organ, and an extremely important one at that. Without a properly functioning gut, you leave your body’s defence system complete exposed to all outside attacks, as well as some internal attacks from your own body.
No two microbiomes are the same which, given the number of cells that are held there, perhaps isn’t surprising. However, there are steps that everyone can take to maintain a healthy gut and therefore keep all aspects of health in check.
Eat the right foods
Your gut responds in a variety of different ways to what you feed it. As well as eating the right foods to support a healthy gut, a diverse diet is also pretty important as it makes your gut stronger and more adaptable to inputs.
Remove sugar and processed foods from your diet. Refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods get absorbed quickly into your small intestine without any help from your microbes. That means your gut microbes stay hungry so they begin feasting on the cells that line your intestines. Your intestinal lining is the strong and very important barrier between your gut and the rest of your body. When your intestinal wall becomes exposed, particles of food enter your bloodstream, causing your immune system to attack them, and ultimately your own tissues. This leads to inflammation which is often the root of most illness.
Get your carbs from vegetables. Especially the leafy green type which is well known to provide the gut with a diverse set of good bacteria. Garlic and ginger are honourable mentions too, while they aren’t carbs, they still have important inflammation fighting and preventing properties.
Add some fermented foods into your diet. Fermented foods are rich in prebiotics. While probiotics are the microbes that your gut needs to fight off disease, prebiotics is the food that they need to fuel the fight. Foods such as yoghurt (unprocessed), pickles, kimchi, kefir and kombucha are all great ways to help out your gut microbiome.
Take a High-Quality Probiotic
Unless you are a superhuman that manages to get all of their probiotic (good bacteria) organically through food sources, you could probably benefit from a bit of probiotic supplementation. Probiotics fill your gut with important little ‘soldiers’ that help to maintain a healthy ecosystem, aid in the break down of foods and fight off disease. These friendly inhabitants of your gut also only stick around for about 12 days at a time, so make sure to get them replenished.
The best brand that I have found is Holistic Blends. Their SuperShield probiotic is the most potent and effective on the market and leaves my stomach in harmony all day. It feeds you over 7 billion good bacteria per capsule and within there you have a variety of probiotic strains. Some of which colonise the large intestine and others the small intestine. SuperShield also includes 25mg of prebiotics to feed all of those probiotics when they get in there.
However, as well as being the most effective, Holistic Blends is also one of the most expensive. If you live in the UK, you need to factor in additional shipping costs too. The best UK supplier of probiotics I have found is Pharma Nord. Their probiotics contain 4 billion good bacteria that are mainly released in the small intestine.
Support Your Digestion
Many people have low stomach acid which can lead to difficulty with digestion as well as some other nasty feelings in the gut and stomach areas. This is because the stomach doesn’t have sufficient acid to properly break down food. Intuitively, people think that a grumbly stomach means an acidic stomach when it is usually the opposite. Simple fixes for helping digestion and getting a bit more vital acid in there are drinking lemon water, apple cider vinegar or supplementing in digestive enzymes such as Glutamine.
Your gut is one of the most affected areas of your body from sleep deprivation. And by sleep deprivation, most experts agree that is 6 hours or less. Not enough sleep can leave your defence systems extremely vulnerable. Lack of sleep also increases cortisol levels (the stress hormone) which cause the gut microbiome to not function in its intended way. While cortisol can be useful in small doses, chronic cortisol exposure such as that from a consistent lack of sleep causes inflammation in the gut and problems with digestion.
Be Careful with Antibiotics
As the name suggests, antibiotics wipe out most of your microbiome of both the good and bad microbes. It is like a purge of all microbes. The bad usually disappear but so do all of the good. This leaves your gut very weak if it’s not replenished and puts you at risk of more issues if you don’t manage to get all of the good microbes back in there. Only take antibiotics when they’re absolutely necessary.