We are now learning how important our gut health is to our overall health.
Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”
And while this may not be 100% true for every disease research shows that our gut (digestive system) has a greater role than we initially thought in many diseases. The issues that can originate in the gut are not limited to heartburn, constipation, diarrhoea, IBS, IBD, etc. They can also be allergies, pain, mood disorders, and nutrient deficiencies which in turn can lead to more serious issues.
Our gut is the portal to the outside world.
It’s here where we take in disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. We also take in nutrients (and toxins) through our gut. The nutrients we ingest and absorb are the building blocks of every single part of our body.
We’re just learning the connections between our gut and other areas of our body. The gut brain-axis refers to the signals that are sent between our intestinal tract and the central nervous system.
When we refer to the gut we are including its friendly resident microbes too. These guys also have newly discovered roles in our gut health and overall health.
So, let’s talk about the roles that our gut and our gut microbes play in our overall health. Then I’ll give you tips to improve your gut health naturally.
Our gut’s role in our overall health
Our gut’s main role is as a barrier. To let things in that should get in, and to keep things out that should stay out. In another way absorption of nutrients is how our gut lets the good stuff in, and elimination of waste is how it lets stuff pass through and out.
This seemingly simple role is super-complex! And it can break down in so many places.
A healthy gut is not a leaky gut – the first pillar of gut health
It maintains its barrier and shuttles things through to be eliminated.
Our guts can “leak.” Yes, like a long tube with holes in it, it can allow things to get into our bloodstream/bodies that can wreak havoc: bacteria, undigested food, and toxins.
Whatever you put into your mouth can be absorbed by your gut and get into your bloodstream, even if it’s not supposed to. If your gut wall gets irritated, it can “leak.”
When this happens it can set up inflammation, which is a starting point for many diseases that don’t seem linked to the gut but have a sneaky connection to it.
FUN FACT: About 70% of our immune system lives in and around our gut.
The second important part of your gut is the billions of friendly health-promoting microbes. Gut microbes help us digest and absorb nutrients.
They fight off disease-causing microbes, make some vitamins for us, and have a myriad of other health benefits, like mental health support, reducing inflammation, and stabilizing blood sugar.
So, keeping your gut microbes happy is the second pillar of gut health!
How to improve gut health
There are many natural ways to improve gut health.
What To Exclude From Your Diet
Don’t give the gut any amination it can use against you: processed or junk foods, refined sugars, gluten, too much caffeine, too much alcohol.
Try that for a few weeks, and you may be amazed at how much better your body (and gut) feels. Certainly, your digestion will thank you for it.
You may also want to eliminate other gut irritants. Dairy and grains contain common compounds that are known to be irritants. Eliminating them for only a few weeks should be enough to see the difference in your health.
What To Include In Your Diet
By eating nutrient-dense foods, we allow ample macro and micro-nutrients into our gut to maximize the chance for absorption. These nutrients help our bodies and gut build and repair.
Some of the most nutrient-dense foods include dark leafy greens, colourful fruits and veggies, liver, and fish.
By including probiotic-rich foods and drinks into our diet, we can help to replenish our gut microbes. Kombucha, pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi are some of the foods that are rich in these probiotics. Make these a part of your daily diet. See these recipes here for some ideas.
Whole foods are full of gut-friendly fibre. Not eating enough fibre can increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity.
Our gut loves fibre which has many important roles to play not least of which is whisking away some of those pesky bad bacteria and toxins to be eliminated. Fibre also helps to feed the friendly resident microbes that help us absorb and digest our food better. What foods have a lot of fibre? Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even cacao.
And don’t forget the uber-important lifestyle factors like getting enough sleep, stressing less and getting the right amount (and intensity) of exercise for you. It’s easy to forget some of the simple, but key links there are between what we do with our bodies and how well they function.
The function of your gut is key to your overall health.
There are two pillars of gut health: maintaining a good barrier and maintaining healthy gut microbes.
Eat nutrient-dense foods to keep these two pillars healthy. Foods filled with nutrition, probiotics, and fibre. And eliminating common gut irritants like added sugar, processed foods, and alcohol.