Every year we see new wellness information, trends, and fads emerge. At only three weeks into 2020, I’m happy to see one area of wellness come to light: gut health!! Talking about our guts brings back memories of Jamie Lee Curtis’ Activia commercials (we ALL know the ones I’m talking about) and their message of the importance of “staying regular”. I get where they were coming from, but it definitely didn’t seem catchy or at the time a big deal. Fast forward 8 years and it seems that probiotics, gut-friendly diets, and candida cleanses are starting to be all the rage. So what really is gut health, and why should you even care?
According to “The Complete Guide to Gut Health” by Centennial Health, gut health is considered to be the condition of your digestive system, including how it impacts your hormones, stress, allergens, weight, circadian rhythm and more!! There is a connection between the gut and the brain, and scientists are starting to understand its significance now more than ever. Between 80-90% of our body’s feel-good hormone serotonin is synthesized in the gut, along with about 50% of our dopamine. And that’s only one of many functions the gut serves! Before diving more into the importance of the bacteria Microbiome, let’s look at some of the top ailments or complaints of having an inflamed gut:
- Brain fog and fatigue
- Depression and mood swings
- Joint and muscle pain
- Acne and eczema
- Diabetes and cardiovascular disorders
This list blew my mind! I’ve sometimes struggled from allergies, acne, anxiety, and fatigue, though had no idea that it could be less about my environment and more about what was happening inside me!! About 70% of the body’s entire immune system actually resides in the gut-associated lymphoid tissue. Since there trillions of cells inside of our gut, technically more than make up the cells in our human body, it’s important to find that proper balance to reduce inflammation and feel our best overall. The good news is, you don’t have to buy expensive supplements or follow strict programs in order to get a healthy gut. There are endless ways to promote good gut health, and you should always check with a doctor before trying something new. Here are a couple tips I recommend to get your gut health where it needs to be:
- Manage your stress levels – This one is so crucial! Stress is the number one thing that deteriorates your gut’s health and causes an imbalance between the healthy bacteria in your gut and the not-so-good guys that can cause a negative change in the body’s immune system. Take at least five minutes every day to simply be still without your technology or any other distractions, and try to incorporate other calming activities like yoga, meditating, journaling, or taking a hot bath to keep your stress levels to a minimum.
- Eat more fiber – And no, not Metamucil. Fiber from whole grains, fruits and veggies is a pre-biotic, which acts as a food for the healthy bacteria in the gut. Just like you need to eat, our Microbiome does too. For women, try to get 25 grams or more per day, and 38 grams or more for men. Of course you’ll want to slowly increase your fiber intake over time so you don’t experience any GI distress.
- Add varied, natural probiotics to your diet – Oftentimes we think of an expensive supplement or dairy yogurt when we hear of probiotics. There are so many cheaper, healthier options that will encourage the growth of new, beneficial strains of bacteria in your gut. Kimchi, raw sauerkraut, sprouts and sprouted seeds, and kombucha are just some examples. You can find these items at farmers markets, health food stores, and sometimes even at your grocery store. It only takes about 7 days for your Microbiome to shift towards healthy flora, so you should start to notice bowel regularity, less cravings, and more energy within a week of starting to use probiotics. It’s important to keep diversifying your gut, so switch up your sources or if you do use a supplement, be sure to occasionally switch up your strains.
I honestly could just keep going on and on about how amazing our gut is, and I can say this from first hand experience. Since I’ve started taking sprouted seeds, kimchi, a probiotic supplement, and getting close to 50 grams of fiber a day, I’ve noticed a huge change in my body. I drink decaf coffee in the morning and don’t feel like I’m lacking energy later in my day. I’ve reduced my sugary cravings, which used to be pretty extreme, down to almost nothing. I don’t snack during the day and feel that I’ve lost a small percentage of fat now that my gut is helping my body to run more efficiently. These are just my personal experiences with working to improve my gut health, and I know it will vary from person to person. I’m hoping gut health is one wellness trend that stays around for awhile.
WTo read more, I recommend checking out the magazine I mentioned before, “The Complete Guide to Gut Health”. I read the entire issue cover to cover, which I rarely do these days! Head over to my recipes page to check out some of the nutritious recipes I used to get my gut health in check, and I’ll see you on the blog next time!