We have learned that our gut health plays a very important role in our overall health. Over the past 20 or so years it has come to light that there are links between our gut health and many health issues such as endocrine disorders, autoimmune diseases, our immune system function, mood, skin conditions and disease.
Research is continually finding new evidence of the impact of the gut on the immune system and our overall health.
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To understand it a bit better, the gut- aka – the gastrointestinal tract stretches all the way from our mouth to our bottom. It’s responsible for the digestion and absorption of nutrients from the food we eat. It also coordinates more than 30 various hormones along with many enzymes to work at breaking down the food we eat. It plays a critical role in defending against illness and lastly, the important job of removing waste from the body.
Did you know? More than 80% of our immune cells are in the gut?
We have several hundred, various species of bacteria in our digestive tract. Some are harmful. The gut, when in a healthy state, does a good job of relaying that to the immune system and it is quickly taken care of.
Very important are all the beneficial bacteria, many of which are extremely necessary to our health. We need a wide variety of these “good” bacteria for many reasons. Enhancing our immune systems job is just one of them. There are numerous others.
Now that we have a better picture of the important functions of our gut, I think we can see why we need to think more about lending a hand to promote gut health.
A few warning signs of poor gut health may include constipation or diarrhea, heartburn, bloating and other stomach disturbances. It can cause us to have difficulty processing food and eliminating waste.
Serotonin is a hormone that affects mood and sleep. A lot of people don’t realize that most of our body’s serotonin is produced in our gut, thus, poor gut health can contribute to insomnia and poor sleep issues in general which can then lead to chronic fatigue.
If our gut is not healthy it can increase systemic inflammation and the proper function of our immune system may be altered. Then, we may end up with autoimmune disease. (source)…
Difficulty digesting certain foods lead to food intolerances and it is highly suspected that this is caused by an unhealthy gut. In turn, this can lead to digestive issues with certain trigger foods. Along with that, often comes the bloating, abdominal pain, nausea,, gas and sometimes diarrhea.
So, what can we do? The gut is like a miniature ecosystem which can be changed with diet change. For a start, we can consume a healthier diet with less processed foods and less processed, refined sugar. We already know that to much sugar leads to inflammation which contributes to disease.
Some specific foods that lend a strong hand in good gut health are garlic, onions and fermented foods such as sauerkraut. Also, miso, kombucha, kefir and apple cider vinegar.
Yogurt is also a great fermented food source. However, many of them contain rediculous amounts of sugar so opt for full fat, plain yogurt with no added sugar. There are also dairy free yogurts. Again, watching out for the added sugars.
Coconut oil has some specific fatty acids that work well to restore the acidity level in our stomach and kill off harmful bacteria and yeast. It’s the only oil we use around here. We cook with it, I add it to my smoothies, we feed some to our dogs and we use it on our skin.
Besides a better diet and consuming probotics there are a few other things we can do to lead to a healthier gut. Decrease our stress levels, get a good nights sleep, stay hydrated and eat slower for better digestion.
I try to eat a little probiotic every day. It has really helped in lowering digestion issues and I know it is doing a lot more behind the scenes. One thing that has helped a lot is that I started fermenting on a regular basis. At the very least I keep some homemade sauerkraut on hand.
Better health and wellness always starts with making a change. We can do that “Just for Today.”
Linda Carlson – Certified Nutrition & Wellness Counselor (retired) with 25+ years background.
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