Maybe talking about your gut isn’t the most comfortable topic — at least, it’s not the most glamorous one. But it is one of the most important: our guts aren’t…
Maybe talking about your gut isn’t the most comfortable topic — at least, it’s not the most glamorous one. But it is one of the most important: our guts aren’t just responsible for helping us digest food and absorb key nutrients, but they are central to all aspects of our health, from our physical to our mental to our emotional wellbeing.
In fact, more and more health complaints are being traced back to it. Acne? Fatigue? Brain fog? There’s a good chance you need to check on your gut. “From a biological perspective the gut might be the most important organ if you think about what defines life in the broadest terms: the ability to convert energy from your environment,” Dr. Pankaj Jay Pasricha, M.D., the director of the John Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology, told Marie Claire
So, what is a healthy gut?
Basically, a healthy gut is one that is not inflamed — inflammation anywhere in your body can be the culprit behind numerous health issues, which is why we’ve put together several guides to help you develop a more anti-inflammatory lifestyle — and one without intestinal permeability, or leaky gut. Leaky gut occurs when the lining of your intestines becomes compromised and waste, like undigested food particles, or pathogens, like bacteria, can exit the gut and enter your bloodstream. This can also cause inflammation, as well as make you sick.
Even if you don’t have celiac disease, gluten has been found to cause leaky gut. To test if gluten might be the culprit behind digestive issues, remove it completely from your diet for at least four weeks, and see what happens when you reintroduce it. Consider keeping a food diary to check what, if anything, is causing intestinal distress.
Your gut is also home to trillions of microorganisms, and you want to prioritise this microbiome of good bacteria. Health issues can also result when you have too much bad bacteria, causing conditions like Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) or Candida.
The gut-brain connection
It turns out the phrase “go with your gut” might be scientifically valid. The brain and the gut are the first and second biggest collection of nerves, respectively, in the body, and they’re directly connected. What does this mean? That there could be a link between depression and anxiety, and the state of your intestines; what you consume impacts your gut bacteria, and your gut bacteria can impact your emotions. According to dietitian Chloe McLeod: “There is evidence showing gut irritation may send signals to the central nervous system, which then triggers mood changes.”
The reverse is true as well: by caring for your mental health, your gut can relax, heal, and continue to populate with good bacteria. Try activities like meditating, doing yoga, or making sure you set aside designated “me time” on a regular basis.
I’m worried my gut isn’t healthy
Not sure if your gut is as healthy as you’d like? If you have no bloating, no pain, and are going to the bathroom regularly, that’s generally a good sign. Luckily, even if your gut is giving you grief, diet (switching to a plant-based diet can be a great first step), exercise, and lifestyle adjustments can help return it to a healthy, nourished state. Keep an eye on our blog for posts on how to improve gut health.
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