Your gut - the stomach, intestines, and everything else that aids in digestion - is an important part of your body’s overall health. In recent years, scientists have found that there’s more to your gut than just digesting food and delivering nutrients. It’s also a treasure trove of beneficial bacteria that keep your entire body running smoothly. Today, we’re looking at ways to improve gut health and how focusing on your gut can change your life.
What Is Gut Health and Why Is It Important?
You might think of your “gut” as your stomach and intestines. Or maybe you think of it as the part of your body that hangs over your jeans when you skip your workouts.
But the gut is so much more than that.
Your gut is the entire digestion system - the parts of your body that take in food, take our key nutrients, transport those nutrients, and then eliminate the waste (yes, that’s part of it, too).
However, science has discovered that gut health is related to a variety of systems in our bodies. Our gut health can be linked to diabetes and cancer, inflammation, emotional wellbeing, and immunity. Our gastrointestinal systems contain an entire world of microorganisms - mostly “good” bacteria - that help keep our bodies running smoothly. The more diverse the microbes, the better your overall health.
How to Know if Your Gut Health is Out of Balance
The key to feeling good, both physically and emotionally is to keep your gut bacteria in check. Many factors can affect gut health, from your stress levels to the medications you take. But the biggest factor in your gut health is your diet.
How do you know if your gut health is out of whack? It’s pretty simple. Bloating, gas, stomach issues, or nausea are all signs that something is out of balance. But there are more subtle symptoms too, like fatigue or mobility issues and inflammation.
Best Foods to Improve Gut Health
To keep our guts healthy, it’s important to eat foods that promote digestion and microbe growth. We want more of the “good” bacteria so that they can protect us from the “bad” bacteria.
In general, the same things that are bad for the rest of your body are bad for your gut: smoking, excessive drinking, and lack of exercise. Fried foods, lots of red meat, and high-fat diets can also impact your gut health.
There are some foods that improve gut health:
- Fermented foods, like apple cider vinegar, kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Fermented foods contain probiotics, which promote good intestinal health.
- Leeks and onions
- Beans and legumes
- Whole and sprouted grains
The bottom line? Your gut health is connected with the health of your entire body. The same foods that damage your other bodily systems - foods that are processed or high in sugar or saturated fat - are bad for your gut, too. But foods that improve gut health are great for your body as a whole.
A more balanced diet does your body - and your gut - good.
Until next time, take care of yourself (and your gut!) and one another.