A healthy, diverse gut microbiome is essential for vibrant health and wellness. Gut health is not a destination but a journey. The gut environment needs to be nurtured and nourished throughout your life. The balance is delicate but attainable with a few healthy choices.
Let’s dive deeper into what gut health means, why it’s important and 10 ways you can support it so you look and feel your best.
The gut microbiome refers to the trillions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live in the gut. A healthy gut contributes to a strong immune system, heart health, brain health, improved mood, healthy sleep, and effective digestion. It may help prevent some cancers and autoimmune diseases by keeping systemic inflammation in check. As you can see, it is directly linked to the health of your whole body and is solely responsible for the digestion, absorption, and assimilation of food.
It is believed the gut is not only responsible for your physical health but also your mental health. Neurotransmitters are produced in the gut that contribute to mood and stress resiliency. In fact, 90% of serotonin receptors are in the gut. Keeping the microbiome healthy and balanced supports mood, clarity and stress resiliency.
If the gut is not well cared for due to a diet high in processed foods and/or allergy-inducing food choices the integrity of the gut lining can become compromised and create havoc on your health. Symptoms can range from constipation, indigestion, bloating, heartburn, moodiness, lethargy and autoimmune disorders. A compromised gut can also lead to chronic low-level inflammation which is often a precursor to disease and cancer.
There are various factors that affect your gut microbiome.
Vaginally delivered babies tend to have a healthier, more diverse microbiome that carries into adulthood.
Breastfed babies also have a healthier gut since the healthy bacteria from the mother is passed onto the baby through her breast milk.
Antibiotic use can negatively affect the gut. Antibiotics kill bad bacteria, along with the good, which disrupts the delicate balance within the gut lining. While there is a place for necessary antibiotic usage, just be sure to supplement with a doctor approved probiotic to help repopulate your gut with healthy bugs.
Diet has a huge affect on the diversity of the gut microbiome. The food you eat literally feeds the healthy bacteria that contribute to gut health. A diet high in processed food, red meat and other pro-inflammatory foods deplete the healthy bacteria and promote an overgrowth of the bad bacteria.
1. Eat a plant-based Mediterranean inspired diet. Eating a diet high in colorful fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and whole grains is the best way to support a healthy, diverse microbiome. Click here to read more about the health benefits of a Plant-based Mediterranean diet.
2. Get restorative sleep. Prioritizing healthy sleep habits that ensures 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep is important for gut health. Consistent restorative sleep helps the body to heal, repair and recharge which benefits the integrity of gut microbiome.
3. Get moving. Regular exercise is beneficial for physical and mental health which support a healthy gut. Click here to read about the The 28 Benefits of Yoga for Women.
4. Manage stress. Stress resiliency is very important for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. We all face stress, and it is nearly impossible to eliminate all sources of it from our lives. But we can develop strategies to help manage stressful situations. These include meditation, breathwork, gentle yoga, journaling, community support or time in nature. Click here to learn about the Health and Wellness Benefits of a Daily Grounding Practice.
5. Add fermented foods to your diet. Fermented foods contain healthy bacteria strains, bifidobacterium and lactobacillus, that support a healthy gut. Examples include kombucha, kefir, tempeh, kimchi, and yogurt.
6. Take a doctor approved probiotic. Probiotics are a nice way to supplement your diet if you feel like you are not getting enough fermented foods to support a healthy microbiome.
7. Add prebiotics to your diet. Prebiotic fiber sources ferment in the gut, creating beneficial bioactive compounds that feed the good bacteria. These foods include Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, chicory root, onions, quinoa, and amaranth.
8. Eliminate potential food sensitivities and/or allergens from your diet. Keep a food diary for 2 weeks and notice how you feel. If you find a particular food leaves you with lethargy, indigestion, brain fog, or malaise you may have a food sensitivity or allergy. Even mild food sensitivities or allergies can wreak havoc on your mind-body. Common foods that can cause issues are gluten, dairy, eggs and nightshades.
9. Replenish your gut with digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes can be helpful if you have issues with digestion and absorption due to an unhealthy gut microbiome. They help facilitate the absorption of nutrients and aid in digestive functions which can benefit the gut.
10. Get more good fats in your diet. Supplementing with Omega-3’s can support a healthy gut by promoting greater bacterial diversity. Healthy fats such as Omega-3s can be found in foods like salmon and other fatty fish, nuts, seeds and flaxseed oil.
Consider focusing on your gut health with these suggestions. Please is note this information is not intended to be a substitute for the advice, treatment and/or diagnosis of a qualified licensed medical professional. If you suspect deeper gut health issues, seek out medical attention and additional testing. This information is intended to guide and support you on your wellness journey to balance mind, body and soul for optimal health. You deserve to feel your best!
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Ashley Logan is a Certified Integrative Health Coach, writer and workshop facilitator who helps women create actionable strategies that support physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellness for optimal health.
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