Our gut is an incredibly complex facet of our digestive system, as well as the largest endocrine organ in the entire body. Research is continually proving that strong gut health not only correlates to a healthy body, but also to a healthy mind.
In fact, an NIH-funded study recently linked a less-diverse gut microbiome to Alzheimer’s disease (Vogt 1).
Physically, poor gut health may lead to and cause a multitude of health concerns, such as autoimmune conditions, Crohn’s disease, leaky gut, chronic fatigue, nutrient deficiencies, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and more.
In more recent history, medical research yields links between gut health to mood and overall brain function. Our stomach and digestive system are part of our enteric nervous system, which is responsible for communicating many emotional messages to our brain.
These findings have even gone as far as to have scientists dub this part of our digestive system as the “brain in your gut” or “the little brain.” Compromising gut health may go as far as to develop depression and anxiety in specific individuals. Conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome have often directly correlated with mental health challenges (Hopkins 3).
As an unhealthy gut can trigger a less-than-ideal state of body and mind, it is imperative for all of us to take proper actions to care for our guts. Below are the top 3 ways to improve gut health that anyone could incorporate into their health and wellness routines to strengthen and ensure a healthy gut microbiome.
1. Balancing and Restoring Healthy Gut Bacteria With Probiotics
Probiotics replenish the healthy bacteria in your gut. This beneficial bacteria is mainly responsible for ensuring a robust digestive process in your body, significantly if unhealthy bacteria have compromised your digestive system due to poor diet or consuming antibiotics. The easiest way to encourage probiotic intake is through probiotic supplements. There are many supplements available on the market, as well as probiotic-infused yogurts and other dairy products. Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha drinks, are also a fantastic source of healthy bacteria for improving gut health.
2. Exercising and Reducing Stress
High stress has been shown to decrease blood flow to our digestive system, negatively affecting nutrient absorption and healthy gut bacteria levels (Madison 2). Exercise is widely known to be a direct way to combat stress. Yoga, taking walks, or even having a robust exercise routine are all ways to keep your body moving and blood flowing. Other methods of reducing stress can also be relaxation techniques such as meditation and breathwork.
3. Reducing or Avoiding Sugar
Consuming sugar is now understood to be harmful to our health in a multitude of ways, including to our gut health. Harmful bacteria and yeasts feed on sugar, promoting their growth and leading to a host of digestive issues and, in turn, many other health problems as a whole. Avoiding sugar altogether is the best course of action; however, just reducing sugar intake (avoiding soda and refined sugar) or replacing sugar with unrefined sugars is an excellent course of action.
Implementing these practices into your daily life are just a few ways to improve your gut health and generally lead to a lifestyle of optimal well-being.
Gardendale Primary Care is the office of Dr. Gilbert F. Douglas, an experienced and trusted Internal Medicine physician who provides a number of health services for people in the local area.