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Maintaining good gut health

The wellness of both your body and your brain can depend on your gut health.  The gut consists of a whole host of microbes that affect your physiology and keep your body and brain functioning as they should.

Research has shown that gut microbes affect the way you store fat, how you balance levels of glucose in your blood, and how you respond to hormones that make you feel hungry or satiated.

Gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters that regulate your mood including serotonin, dopamine, and GABA.

The gut microbiome

The term ‘gut microbiome’ refers specifically to the microorganisms living in your intestines. A person has about 300 to 500 different species of bacteria in their digestive tract. While some microorganisms are harmful to our health, many are incredibly beneficial and even necessary to a healthy body.

Having a wide variety of these good bacteria in your gut can enhance your immune system function, improve symptoms of depression, help combat obesity, and provide numerous other benefits.

When it comes to maintaining your microbiome at its healthiest level, nothing is more important than what you eat and drink.  The internal environment of your gut is dictated by what you put in your mouth, so the foods you choose to eat are a crucial component of maintaining gut health.

The good news is, even a lifetime of bad eating is fixable.  Amazingly, your body can create a new microbiota in as little as 24 hours, simply by changing what you eat.

Signs of an unhealthy gut

High stress levels, lack of sleep, eating processed and high-sugar foods, and taking antibiotics can all cause damage to our gut microbiome. An unhealthy gut may reveal itself in a number of ways including:

Stomach disturbances

Such as gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn.  A balanced gut will have less difficulty processing food and eliminating waste.

Weight gain

Unintentional weight gain may be a sign of an unhealthy gut. An imbalanced gut can impair your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugar, and store fat. Weight gain may be caused by insulin resistance or the urge to overeat due to decreased nutrient absorption.

Sugar cravings

A high sugar diet can decrease the amount of good bacteria in your gut and in turn cause increased sugar cravings and inflammation in the body.  Inflammation can be a precursor to a number of diseases including cancers.

Constant fatigue

An unhealthy gut can contribute to sleep disturbances as most of the body’s serotonin, a hormone that affects mood and sleep, is produced in the gut.

Skin conditions

Inflammation in the gut caused by a poor diet may cause increased “leaking” of certain proteins out into the body, which can in turn irritate the skin and cause conditions such as eczema.

Autoimmune conditions

An unhealthy gut may increase systemic inflammation and alter the proper functioning of the immune system. This can lead to autoimmune diseases, where the body attacks itself rather than harmful invaders.

How to get good gut bacteria

What you eat determines which bacteria thrive in your gut.  Reducing the amount of processed, high-sugar, and high-fat foods that you eat can also contribute to better gut health. Additionally, eating plenty of plant-based foods and lean protein can positively impact your gut. A diet high in fibre has been shown to contribute tremendously to a healthy gut microbiome.

Adding a prebiotic or probiotic supplement to your diet may also be a great way to improve your gut health. Prebiotics provide “food” meant to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, while probiotics are live good bacteria. Not all probiotic supplements are high quality or will actually provide benefit. It’s best to consult your Wellmed doctor when choosing a probiotic or prebiotic supplement to ensure the best health benefit.

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