Taking care of your gut health has never been more important due to the incredible complexity of the gastrointestinal system and its importance to our overall health. Much research over the past two decades has shown a strong link between gut health and your immune system, mood and mental health, hormonal disorders, skin conditions and cancer.
As early as the 20th century a Russian scientist, Dr Elie Metchnikoff suggested that the good health of Bulgarian peasants was due to their consumption of yoghurt containing healthy bacteria. An increasingly trendy topic in the present day, there is now more scientific evidence showing a positive relationship between good gut health and mood. So, how do we take advantage of this? Here are our top tips on how having a healthy gut can help you improve your health.
First up, what is your gut?
At one time, our digestive system was considered a relatively simple body system, comprised essentially of one long tube for our food to pass through, be absorbed, and then excreted. In reality, the gut is a complex system that plays so many roles within the body such as:
- A barrier to keep unwanted toxins from entering the body
- Promotes fluid and electrolyte uptake in the large bowel
- Produces vitamin K, B12 and folate
- Aids in proper digestion of food and nutrients
- Deactivates harmful enzymes in the intestine
- Helps fight off harmful bacteria and viruses
- Regulates bowel movements
- Immune defence (around 90% of the body’s immune cells are in the gut)
- Assists in the production of mood boosting serotonin and neurotransmitters
Gut health and mood
Think of your gut like a car, in order to run it needs fuel. This fuel that helps to keep your gut healthy may also inadvertently boost your brain health. In fact your gut is so complex that it is the only system in the body that functions independently from the brain. Instead your gut ‘talks’ with your brain through the vagus nerve, the blood system as well as the immune cells. The gut and brain are linked through a process known as the gut-brain axis. This is why the gut is often referred to as the second brain. If you’ve ever felt ‘butterflies’ in your stomach at the start of a race, or felt a sinking feeling when faced with a fear such as creepy crawlies or heights, this is an example of the ‘gut brain axis’ in action. The gut brain axis also works in other ways by communicating with the brain to tell you to stop eating when you are full.
With proper nutrition, a healthy gut in turn leads to a healthy brain.
How to achieve good gut health?
Gut health is like a fingerprint, in that we are all unique. There are three simple steps to improving your gut health – through your food, through your lifestyle and habits, and through supplementation. There is an ever increasing momentum showing that a diet supplemented with prebiotics and probiotics can also improve your health. Prebiotics essentially provide food for your healthy gut bacteria to thrive, while probiotics are live good bacteria.
Healthy Gut Foods
Probiotics are they gut foods live bacteria in cultured foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, tempeh, miso, and kefir. They can help us stay healthy by improving the balance of bacteria in our intestines. These ‘good guys’ work in a way that whereby we feed them and they help us to digest our food, create balance within the body through regulation of hormones and neurotransmitters. Think of it as creating inner harmony. Probiotics have been shown to improve mood, reduce anxiety and overall boost cognitive function.
Prebiotics are the food that feed these good bacteria and they are essentially types of carbs (mostly fibre) that humans can’t digest. Many foods naturally contain these fibres, such as legumes, beans, peas, oats, bananas, berries, garlic, leek and onions.
Healthy Gut Habits
High levels of stress can affect your whole body, and particularly your digestion and gut health. By looking to actively reducing your stress levels, your gut health can benefit.
A lack of sleep can also have a negative effect on your gut health… which in turn can contribute to poor sleep. Try to create a calm and consistent sleep routine to break this cycle.
We can often rush through meals, but slowing down and chewing food thoroughly can have a big impact on our gut health as it aids digestion. Staying well hydrated is also vital for gut function – it benefits the lining of the gut and is a simple way to promote healthy digestion.
Healthy Gut Supplements
The scientific evidence showing how having a healthy gut can improve your health is growing by the day. Some research indicates that prebiotics and probiotics are effective for treating diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, allergic disorders, and the common cold. These supplements have also been suggested as a treatment for obesity, because of the link between healthy gut and overall health (particularly digestion and mood).
Enhancing your diet with gut friendly foods and simple lifestyle changes that can positively affect your gut health. Adding in a prebiotic gut health supplement such as our new Bindi Digest Blend can help you stay on track with your health goals so you can perform at your best every day.