How To Improve Gut Health

How to Improve Gut Health

How To Improve Gut Health.

The gut is often referred to as the “second brain” and plays a crucial role in overall well-being. Gut health impacts not only our digestion but also influences our immune system, mental health, and more. Understanding the significance of gut health is essential for maintaining a healthy and balanced life.

Understanding Gut Health

Gut health refers to the balance of microorganisms that reside in the digestive tract. The gut microbiome, made up of trillions of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes, plays a vital role in supporting proper digestion, nutrient absorption, and immune function. A diverse and thriving gut flora is key to optimal digestive health.

The stomach, intestines and colon make up your gastrointestinal system. This is where, with the help of the microorganisms, the breaking down of food into absorbable nutrients takes place.

There are many strains of bacteria in your gut, and some may be potentially harmful to your health, but many more are highly beneficial and necessary for you to stay well. Medical research has discovered that having a wide variety of gut bacteria is an indicator of the state of health of your microbiome. It has also been found that the health of your gut plays a main role in both physical and mental health. When out of kilter, gut issues affect your immune system and can trigger autoimmune diseases as well as endocrine disorders such as type 2 diabetes. Poor gut health has also been identified as being a possible pre-curser to cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Research studies have concluded that that gut microbiome can affect every organ in the body, and this makes having a well-functioning gut of paramount importance to overall health.

When Things Go Wrong

There are many conditions which crop up when the digestive system begins to malfunction. Amongst the most common are indigestion, heartburn, reflux, peptic and duodenal ulcers.

Inflammatory bowel conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and diverticular disease are also very common results of a faulty gut and cause much discomfort.

Antacid Medication

Although antacids provide temporary relief, they fail to deal with the root cause of digestive symptoms.

Various brands of self-prescribed indigestion, heartburn, and reflux medications are available over the counter at supermarkets as well as pharmacies. They take the form of chewable tablets and liquid preparations and mainly consist of calcium bicarbonate, magnesium, and aluminium salts which work by partially neutralising gastric hydrochloric acid and inhibiting an enzyme known as pepsin. Whilst these preparations give welcome relief from symptoms, they can produce certain adverse effects when overused or taken on a long-term and regular basis.

Although antacids provide temporary relief, they fail to deal with the root cause of digestive symptoms. There is an intricate connection between the gastrointestinal system and overall well-being. An over-acidic environment within the stomach can disrupt the balance of the digestive system, leading to such issues as acid reflux, peptic ulcers, and digestive discomfort. By relying solely on symptom management with antacids, the underlying acidic imbalance and inflammatory responses in the digestive tract remain unaddressed, potentially leading to a worsening of the problem.

GPs often prescribe medication known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Omeprazole or Lansoprazole. These drugs cause a reduction in the quantity of acid produced by the stomach. They are effective in alleviating symptoms but there are concerns about patients becoming too reliant on them. Prolonged use of PPIs may disrupt the natural balance of gastric acid in the stomach, potentially leading to a deficiency in nutrient absorption. It is important to only use PPIs for a short period of time, and strictly under medical supervision. Where possible consider alternative approaches for managing digestive symptoms.

Knowing how to improve gut health by incorporating natural remedies, lifestyle changes, and dietary modifications can make a real difference. By including digestive enzymes in the diet and fostering a healthy gut microbiome, you can support proper digestion and alleviate digestive discomfort. Natural remedies not only target symptoms but work towards addressing the underlying factors contributing to digestive distress. This method of managing gut health goes way beyond the temporary relief provided by antacids.

What Causes a Faulty Gut?

Stress, poor sleep, smoking, alcohol and antibiotics can all affect how your digestive system functions.

Digestive problems can be caused by a variety of things:

  • Stress – This is first on the list for a very good reason. When you are experiencing stress, it can have an almost instant effect on your digestive system. If you suffer from long-term stress, it’s highly likely that you will also be plagued by a variety of digestive-related symptoms.
  • Sleep – Lack of sleep is another common cause of digestive discomfort.
  • Exercise – Too little physical activity can lead to a sluggish digestive system.
  • Smoking – You won’t be surprised to hear that smoking is very bad news for your gut.
  • Alcohol – Excessive consumption of alcohol is highly likely to cause problems and, in some cases, can result in the very painful condition called gastritis.
  • Processed Foods and Additives – Regularly eating processed foods robs your digestive system of essential fibre as well as introducing too much sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, emulsifiers, and artificial sweeteners which all have a negative impact on your gut health. Examples of processed foods are salami and most deli meats, many breakfast cereals, ready-meals, sweet desserts, and packaged snacks such as crisps.
  • Artificial Sweeteners – Beware of slimming products which are sold as healthy alternatives to sugary snacks as they often contain artificial sweeteners which may result in damage to the microbiome. When looking for a sweetener to use instead of simple sugar, try natural foods such as stevia granules (from the stevia leaf).
  • Antibiotics – Whilst being essential in certain cases, will always cause gut imbalance. It can take some time to restore the balance of bacteria in the gut following a course of antibiotics so only taking them when strictly necessary is the safest decision.
  • Gut Microbiome – Research has found that the gut microbiome is regulated by things such as environment, time of life, even whether you were breast or bottle fed as a baby.

Indications that things are not well with your digestive health are:

  • Frequent or constant episodes of flatulence.
  • Feeling bloated and uncomfortable.
  • Constipation and/or diarrhoea.
  • Heartburn and/or reflux.
  • Frequently catching infections such as colds.

Helping Yourself to a Healthier Gut

Increasing dietary fibre, drinking more water and reducing stress are just some of the ways to improve gut health.

To promote gut healing, lifestyle changes such as managing stress, getting regular exercise, and prioritising sleep are essential. Additionally, reducing processed foods and sugar intake can help alleviate gut inflammation and support the healing process. By adopting these strategies, you can empower your body to restore gut health naturally.

It is totally possible to improve your gut health through making certain lifestyle and dietary changes:

Water

Drink plenty of water. It is by far the best fluid to help with maintaining a healthy gut. Water helps your digestive system with the breaking down of food to allow your body to absorb the nutrients, as well as preventing constipation by softening stools. Keeping hydrated with plenty of water helps to boost the diversity of bacteria in your gut.

Dietary Fibre

By increasing your dietary fibre intake you will help your digestive system to keep a steady flow of nutrients and waste products passing through your gut instead of becoming clogged and causing pockets of inflammation in your bowel. Fibre will also help to feed the healthy bacteria in your gut.

Eating a diet high in natural fibre will reduce your risk of bowel cancer, type-2 diabetes, and heart disease.

Dietary fibre is in wholefoods such as vegetables, fruit, wholemeal grains in the form of breads or pasta, brown rice, legumes, and nuts.

Aim to eat foods that are as close to their natural state as possible to support the health of your digestive system.

Stress Reduction

If you know you are feeling stressed it is vital to address the cause and take steps to manage the effects. Therapy is available via the NHS. It is also possible to tap into various meditations and gentle yoga sessions via YouTube. Natural supplements to help regulate your levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, can ease the impact stress has on your body and mind.

Physical Activity

Keeping as active as possible is of great value to a healthy digestive system. Walking is excellent, and even the simple movements of everyday life such as bending and stretching all help. If you can factor in extra exercise such as swimming, badminton, dancing or any sporting activity, you will be helping yourself greatly.

Quality Sleep

Try to establish a sleep routine where you go to bed at the same time each night. Make your bedroom peaceful, not too warm, and not too cold, and invest in a mattress, and pillows that are most comfortable for your body type, weight, and size. Even the way you sleep should be considered when choosing a mattress and pillows, i.e. whether you like to sleep on your side, stomach, or back.

If you suffer with acid reflux and heartburn, you may find that having extra pillows to stop you up from lying flat will help.

Creating a Gut Friendly Diet

A gut friendly diet focuses on whole, unprocessed foods that are rich in fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Incorporating foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can promote a healthy gut environment. By prioritising nutrient dense foods, you can support a diverse gut microbiome and improve your overall digestive health.

Prebiotics are fibrous foods which contain the type of fibre which serves as food for the good bacteria in your gut.

Prebiotics: Food for Gut Flora

Prebiotics are fibrous foods which contain the type of fibre which serves as food for the good bacteria in your gut, however, they are not found in all high fibre foods. Those foods rich in prebiotics include onions, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, and chicory root (which contain a particular kind of soluble fibre called inulin). Prebiotics are also found in bananas, chickpeas, beans, lentils, rye bread, barley, oats, and certain nuts such as pistachios, cashews, and almonds. By including prebiotic-rich foods in your diet, you can nourish and support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, promoting a healthy digestive system.

Probiotics: The Good Bacteria

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Sources of probiotics include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Incorporating probiotic rich foods into your diet or taking probiotic supplements can help rebalance and support your gut flora, leading to improved digestion and overall improved gut health.

Fermented foods like yogurt, kombucha, miso, and tempeh are rich in probiotics and enzymes that support gut health. These gut friendly foods aid in digestion, reduce inflammation, and boost the immune system. Adding a variety of fermented foods to your daily meals can introduce beneficial microbes to your gut, enhancing your overall digestive function.

When foods are fermented it means that they have gone through a process where their sugars are broken down by yeast and bacteria and the bacteria found in fermented foods have been found to be beneficial to digestive health, amongst other benefits.

Embracing natural remedies can be a gentle yet effective way to support gut health. By turning to prebiotics, probiotics, including fermented foods, you can nourish your gut and promote a healthier intestinal environment. These natural solutions offer a much more holistic approach to improving gut health without the use of harsh chemicals.

Natural Gut Treatments: Gentle Care for Your Gut

Natural treatments like herbal teas, bone broth, and aloe vera can help soothe and support gut health. These gentle remedies offer nourishment and healing for the digestive tract without harsh side effects. Remember to eat mindfully, chewing food slowly may help to reduce digestive discomfort.

By choosing natural approaches to gut care, you can provide gentle yet effective support for your gut health.

Gut Health Supplements

While it’s important to obtain nutrients from food, supplements can be extremely helpful in supporting gut health. Probiotic supplements can help replenish beneficial bacteria, while digestive enzymes aid in proper digestion. Choosing high quality gut health supplements can complement a healthy diet and enhance overall gut function.

Probiotic Gold

This our high quality one-capsule per day insurance policy for your gut. It means that on those days when your dietary intake falls short, possibly due to having had a virus or an illness requiring antibiotic medication, even after a spell of eating too much junk food and not enough fruit and veg, your digestive health is covered.

A good probiotic supplement needs to contain as wide a variety of good bacteria as possible as different strains have different effects. Probiotic Gold is suitable if you follow a vegan diet and contains a blend of six different bacteria. Read more about Probiotic Gold

Organic Baobab Powder

This one of our prebiotic supplements sourced from the naturally dried fruit of the Baobab tree. This tree is a native of Africa where it is known as The Tree of Life and was given this nickname as during the dry season it stores moisture in its trunk, allowing it to produce nutrient-dense fruit during a time when very little else can grow. The fruit powder is known to be a superfood, providing gentle dietary fibre and is rich in vitamins and antioxidants. It is also a good supplement if you suffer with inflammatory bowel problems. Read more about Organic Baobab Powder

Inulin Powder

Inulin powder is a form of soluble dietary fibre sourced from chicory root.

Inulin is a form of soluble dietary fibre which is particularly useful if you have been found to have high levels of visceral fat (the fat surrounding the internal organs). Inulin is a prebiotic but is not digested or absorbed within the stomach, it reaches the colon intact. It helps with the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. It is found in small quantities in many fruits and vegetables but in higher amounts in the root of the chicory plant from which it is harvested for supplement production. Inulin may not be ideal if you have irritable bowel syndrome, and when adding it to your diet it is recommended to do so gradually. Read more about Inulin Powder

Effective Gut Health Tips

  • Staying active
  • Keeping hydrated
  • Managing stress
  • Chewing food thoroughly
  • Avoiding late night snacking
  • Incorporating fermented foods into your regular diet

By implementing these tips into your daily routines, you can cultivate a healthier gut and improve overall well-being.

Conclusion

In conclusion, nurturing your gut is essential for overall health and well- being. By incorporating natural remedies, probiotics, prebiotics, and fermented foods into your daily routine, you can support a healthy gut microbiome and digestive system.

Maintaining gut health is a long-term commitment which requires consistent effort. Lifestyle tips such as staying hydrated, and paying close attention to what you are eating, as well as taking time to enjoy your meals in a relaxed atmosphere rather than wolfing down food during moments snatched from a hectic schedule, can help sustain gut wellness. By making small, sustainable changes, you can prioritise your gut health.

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When it comes to keeping you informed on health and nutrition, we’re here for you and aim to help where we can. If you would like to discuss any aspect of using natural supplements, or would find advice helpful, please feel free to contact us on 01297 553932