We’re all aware that a poor diet leads to poor health, but the term “gut health” is becoming more common in the public vernacular. It has become a buzzword used by the media and in advertising to teach us the importance of a healthy diet, but not a lot of people understand its importance.
What is Gut Health?
The term “gut health” was relatively unknown to most people until the last decade, when the effects of inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis began to be understood. They are now common disease states, affecting millions of people. Inflammatory bowel diseases are thought to be triggered by an abnormal immune response to microbial flora in the gut.
There’s also a growing understanding of the role microbes within the gut play in human health. The trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that live within the gastrointestinal tract are collectively called the gut microbiome. They help you digest food, produce essential vitamins, perform other bodily functions, and a lot more.
In short, gut health is the sum of the cells, tissues, and organs that line your gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus, and the billions of microbes that live in there with you.
What are the Signs of Gut Health Problems?
Because your gut houses so many microbes, you may experience a wide array of symptoms that can vary from person to person. Some of the most common gut health problems include:
- Stomach disturbances like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn;
- Unintentional weight changes;
- Autoimmune conditions;
- Constant fatigue;
- Skin irritation;
- Food intolerances;
Gut health problems can be difficult to diagnose and treat because the symptoms are often vague, non-specific, and sometimes mimic other ailments. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it’s possible your gut health could use some attention.
How to Improve Your Gut Health
By striving for a healthy gut, you are working toward a more abundant and energetic life. The following are some simple steps you can take to improve your gut health.
Eat more fiber. Fiber helps to feed the helpful microbes that live in your gut, and it also bulks up your stool so that it passes through quicker and easier.
Eat less sugar. Sugar feeds bad bacteria and other harmful microbes, making it harder for the good guys to grow.
Eat more prebiotics. Prebiotics are fibers that are only digestible by healthy bacteria. They provide the fuel good bacteria need to thrive, allowing you to keep your gut flora stable.
Eat fermented foods. As opposed to probiotic supplements, fermented foods contain probiotics that are already pre-lived in their natural habitat (your belly!).
The Bottom Line: The Importance of Taking Care of Your Gut Health
The digestive tract is a complex, integrated environment, consisting of living and nonliving parts that work together to digest food, absorb nutrients and excrete waste. We all play a critical role in making sure this system is healthy and working as it should, but there’s a lot you can do to improve your gut health.
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