Hippocrates once said that “All disease begins in the gut,” linking the gut to health. Since youth, you’ve been taught that water and food are necessary for the continuance of life, but the importance of just what goes into the gut isn’t as stressed.
What if what went into your gut increased your chances for a longer and more vibrant life? Everyday life is busy in modern times, and it’s likely you’re not getting enough sleep or a well-balanced diet — and our reliance on caffeine doesn’t help. This leads to too much bad bacteria in the gut and not enough good gut bacteria to keep your bodily systems optimally balanced.
The Importance of Good Gut Health
Your gut flora is important to your health, affecting your digestion, production of nutrients and the effectiveness of the immune system to ward off parasites and other toxins.
The food you eat does more than affect your weight gain or loss, as your “gut garden” is filled thousands of gut bacteria, and your gut wall contains 70 percent of cells forming your immune system, acting as a “second brain” to kick out invaders and boost your health.
Your emotional wellbeing is affected by the nerves in your gut, like the sensation of feeling butterflies, representing a psychological stress response. Nearly 90 percent of fibers in your vagus, the primary visceral nerve, deliver information directly from the gut to your brain. Your enteric nervous system has over 30 neurotransmitters, like your brain, and your bowels hold 95 percent of the serotonin in your body.
Consider drugs taken to alter the chemistry of the brain to relieve conditions like depression, often producing side effects in the GI tract. Various cancers, heart health, bone health and obesity are also affected by gut health.
One recent study revealed a new drug that inhibited serotonin release in the gut, while counteracting the effects of bone disease in mice post menopause. The gut, as a “second brain,” is intrinsically linked to the mind and overall health as a second genome, affecting disease, mood and decision-making.
How Do You Heal Your Gut Health?
Feed your gut junk food and it’ll encourage the growth of bad gut bacteria, leading to inflammation, leaky gut syndrome and toxic overload. Nourish your gut with real, whole and nutritious food, and the good bacteria will flourish.
How do you balance and heal your gut health? Keep your gut active with beneficial bacterial, a.k.a. probiotics, and remove bad influences on gut health from your life and mouth:
- Introduce Probiotics Into Your Diet
The good gut bacteria take up roughly 85 percent of the bacterial count in your gut and stand armed and ready to protect you from any parasites, bad bacteria or viruses that try to break into the gut gate. Without probiotics, anything is able to get into your gut.
When probiotics are guarding the gate, keeping your gut balanced, they help you absorb nutrients, make antimicrobial acids and substances to kill bad bacteria and crowd out bad toxins by strengthening gut barrier cells. Consume natural probiotics found in yogurt and fermented foods such as kimchee, kefir, sauerkraut and kombucha.
Probiotics will also improve digestion and reduce cravings. Taking a probiotic supplement with your daily vitamin is also an easy way to boost your gut bacteria count.
- Nourish With Gut Whole Foods and Prebiotics
Nourish your gut with plant-based whole foods and prebiotics. Natural fiber foods and natural sugars feed the good gut bacteria and are known as prebiotics.
There are abundant sources of prebiotic foods in nature, and you can slowly introduce these into your diet and recipes to boost your good gut flora:
- Asparagus contains folate, fiber and B vitamins, with four grams of protein for every eight stalks. It reduces bloating.
- Bananas are delicious in smoothies and soothe your gut membrane. They are wonderful sources of potassium B vitamins with vitamin C. Ripe bananas are easier to digest.
- Onions are affordable, adding flavor to your foods and are a natural insulin source the gut uses to eradicate bad bacteria and boost good bacteria. Onions contain beneficial antioxidants. Don’t forget to lightly cook onions, as raw ones will give you indigestion.
- Garlic contains natural antibiotic and antibacterial properties and is a natural source in insulin, too.
Introduce these slowly into your recipes, along with other prebiotic foods such as beans and cabbage. Eliminate the bulk of processed foods, and cook with more whole foods in your home.
- Remove or Reduce the Bad Influences
Candida is also present in the gut, fed by sugar overconsumption, which in turn feeds yeast and kicks your microbiome out of gear. Probiotics, prebiotics and reducing bad influences will help keep your gut in balance, helping relieve type 2 diabetes symptoms and oral candida, for example.
Consult a nutritionist or doctor to see if you need to reduce or eliminate gluten and sugar from your diet. It’s always best to consult these authorities before doing elimination diets. Avoid junk food or choose healthier junk foods, such as banana chips. Ideally, seek out more whole grains over processed white bread and molasses and honey over processed white sugar.
Your gut functions as a “second brain” in the body affecting your overall health, from disease risk to mood. Optimize your gut health by introducing more probiotics and prebiotics into your diet with whole foods and eliminating the bad influences of processed foods and sugars. Your good gut garden will flourish, and, in turn, you’ll notice a big change in your overall well-being.