What is Gut Health and How to Improve it? A Guide

Posted November 18, 2020 by Clint Kelly - See Editorial Guidelines

In recent years the topic of gut health has become more and more popular. But what exactly is this referring to, and how can we improve this area of our life?

In this article, we will discuss what gut health is and some ways you can improve it naturally. Let’s start off with a quick answer before we get too much into the details.

What is Gut Health? Gut health refers to the condition and function of the gastrointestinal tract. Problems can arise in the gastrointestinal tract leading to persistent symptoms, such as abdominal pain, unusual weight loss, jaundice, and bloody stools. Making certain lifestyle changes and taking the right medications can help improve the function of one’s gastrointestinal tract.

With this brief explanation in mind, let’s cover the details.

What is Gut Health?

What is Gut Health

The topic of gut health has gained much traction within the last couple of years. The reason is believed to be around researchers discovering connections between the health of one’s gastrointestinal tract and the rest of their body.

And with roughly 60-70 million people suffering from digestive diseases, it is important to have a clear understanding of gut health.

In short, gut health refers to the function and bacterial balance of the digestive system. You see, in order for our bodies to digest food properly, multiple organs have to work correctly. These organs include the esophagus, stomach, intestines, pancreas, gallbladder, and liver. 

We must pay careful attention to the health of our digestive system because it is the main way we get the nutrients we need. After we consume food, it is broken down so that it can be absorbed into the bloodstream, which allows for the nutrients to be delivered throughout the body.

There needs to be a balance of certain bacteria and microorganisms in the digestive system. This is often referred to as one’s gut microbiome. If there is an imbalance of bacteria, lack of communication between organs, or another problem, then our body may not be able to get the nutrients it needs.

With this at the forefront of our minds, let’s discuss how our gut health affects other aspects of our health.

How Your Gut Affects Your Health

As mentioned above, researchers and medical professionals have become more aware of how your gut health and microbiome affect other areas of your health. Here is a list of possible conditions that can be caused by an unhealthy gut.

  • Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) – IBD is an all-encompassing term for diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. It is characterized by chronic inflammation in the digestive tract, leading to abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea.
  • Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) – SIBO is characterized by having too much benign bacteria living in the wrong regions of your gut. In this condition, all of the nutrients from the food you’ve eaten is consumed by the bacteria. This can lead to malnutrition, as well as diarrhea.
  • Obesity – Your gut has trillions of bacteria, all of which play a role in how you digest food, absorb nutrients, and give you the feeling of fullness after eating. So, your gut microbiome can have an impact on your weight.
  • Insulin Resistance – Alterations in one’s gut microbiome has been linked to poor insulin sensitivity and other metabolic disorders. This can lead to diabetes.
  • Mental Health – Most parts of the body are connected in one way or another, including the gut and the brain. More studies are finding that one’s gut health can be linked to mental health, such as depression, anxiety, and memory.
  • Asthma – Poor gut health may be linked to different types of lung diseases and problems, such as asthma.
  • Caner – The state of one’s gut health greatly influences one’s immune system, and this could be associated with the development of certain cancers.

Signs of an Unhealthy Gut

If we listen to our body, then we may be able to notice the signs and symptoms of poor gut health. Here are some signs to look for.

Gut Health Infographic

Upset Stomach

Persistent discomfort in the abdomen, such as bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn, can indicate an imbalance in the gut.

High Sugar Diet

Having a diet that consists of a lot of added sugars can eliminate the amount of good bacteria in your gut. A diet that is full of processed foods and refined sugars can lead to increased inflammation, potentially leading to other diseases.  

Changes in Weight

Experiencing changes or fluctuations in your weight without making changes to your diet or exercise routine can be a sign of an unhealthy gut. Weight loss may indicate SIBO (mentioned above), and weight gain may be a sign of insulin resistance or prediabetes.

Disturbed Sleep

Most of our serotonin levels are produced in the digestive tract. Serotonin plays a major role in our mood and sleep patterns. Therefore, poor gut health can lead to insomnia and disrupted sleep, which can contribute to fatigue during the day.  

Skin Conditions

Inflammation of the gut may cause a leaky gut, in which bacteria and toxins get into the bloodstream. This can lead to inflammation throughout the body, causing a reaction from the immune system, which can lead to skin conditions like eczema.

Autoimmune Conditions

Gut health can affect the responses of the immune system. If you have an unhealthy gut that causes inflammation, it may cause the immune system to begin attacking itself, leading to autoimmune conditions.

Intolerant to Certain Foods

The balance of bacteria in our gut is what helps digest the food we eat. If there is an improper amount of good bacteria, then we may have trouble digesting certain foods, triggering a response. This response can include gas, bloating, stomach pain, or diarrhea.

How to Improve Your Gut Health

If you believe that you may have an unhealthy gut, then there is no need to worry. There are some ways to improve your gut health naturally. Here are some steps you can take.

Eat a Balanced Diet

Since poor food choices can cause a decreased amount of good bacteria in our gut, leading to inflammation, we must have a balanced diet. This means incorporating an appropriate mix of leafy green vegetables and lean protein. Foods that are high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids are important to have in your diet.

Eat Probiotic-Rich Foods

Foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, tempeh, kombucha, and pickles are loaded with probiotics. These foods can aid in the digestion process, as well as boost your immune system. This will help prevent gas, bloating, and an upset stomach.

Eat Slower and smaller Meals

Eating slower, as well as smaller meals more frequently will give your body enough time to digest food properly. This means that the food can be digested fully, allowing all the nutrients to be absorbed, preventing discomfort during digestion.

Take the Right Supplements

What is Gut Health

Prebiotic and probiotic supplements can help improve your gut health. It is important to note that not all probiotics are the same, and some do not have the proper ingredients or potency to provide benefits. You should look for probiotics that have lactobacilli and bifidobacterial. This can strengthen your digestive tract and immune system.

Exercise

Exercising regularly gets your blood flowing and triggers the gastrointestinal tract to function properly. Exercise also reduces stress, which promotes good bacteria.

Quit Smoking

Smoking allows toxins to enter the bloodstream, which kills beneficial bacteria in your gut. It also causes disruptions in your immune system and can trigger inflammation throughout the body, potentially causing health problems.

Reduce Your Stress

High levels of stress can impact your gut microbiome negatively. Ways to lower your stress may include meditation, walking, and spending time with friends and family.

Set a Sleep Schedule

We often take for granted how important sleep is. Getting enough sleep is crucial for keeping our immune systems working properly. Also, setting a sleep schedule will help you stop the late-night snacking. This will give your digestive tract the rest it needs so that it can work properly throughout the day.

Closing Thoughts

Struggling with gut health problems can be frustrating and even embarrassing at times. So, we hope this has given you more insight into how you can improve your gut health and prevent further problems. It is important to note that this article is not intended for medical advice. You must consult your doctor for advice surrounding your specific condition.

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