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Gut health is a hot topic right now as more and more people discover how much of an impact it has on overall health and wellness. Before diving into how to improve gut health naturally, it helps to understand the basics of gut health.
The Role of Good & Bad Gut Bacteria In Gut Health
Our gut houses vast amounts of bacteria, most of which live in the colon. These are a mix of good and bad bacteria.
Friendly or good bacteria, which hail from the Bifidobacterium family, Acidophilus, and Lactobacillus family of bacteria, help the digestive system to work efficiently.
These friendly bacteria live in a symbiotic relationship with the digestive system. They help in the proper metabolism of nutrients we eat. Some nutrients that we consume cannot be utilized by the body until they are first metabolized by friendly bacteria.
Good bacteria use these nutrients as fuel and exchange them for nutrients our body needs. Without the help of friendly bacteria, we would become nutrient deficient and our health would suffer.
Bad gut bacteria and fungi, including Candida species and bacteria such as Escherichia coli or E. coli are detrimental to our health. Instead, they release nonnutritive materials and food particles that are too large to be absorbed in the system. This causes bloating, gut inflammation, discomfort, and gas in the system. When this happens, we develop a “leaky gut” that has manifests as food sensitivities and makes us sick.
When the number of good bacteria outweighs the number of bad bacteria in the gut, our digestive system works efficiently and we feel energetic and healthy. The opposite happens when the number of bad bacteria outweighs the number of good bacteria.
The Key To Improve Gut Health Is Maintaining the Balance of Good and Bad Bacteria
The trick to good health is to increase the number of friendly bacteria in the gut and to eliminate or reduce the number of unhealthy bacteria. This sets up a nice balance that allows the digestive system to run smoothly and prevents leaky gut syndrome.
Fortunately, there are several ways you can increase good bacteria and improve gut health naturally.
Bad Gut Bacteria Symptoms
Excessive bad gut bacteria cause a range of problems from digestive issues to mental health problems such as stress and anxiety.
These are some of the typical bad gut bacteria symptoms:
• Stomach discomfort in the form of cramps, gas, bloating, heartburn, IBS, or constipation
• Sugar cravings that are especially prominent after having taken antibiotics
• Unexplained weight loss, which stems from the inability to absorb sufficient nutrients from the food intake
• Brain fog
• Unwarranted mental health issues such as stress and anxiety
The Link Between Gut Health And Mental Health
Studies show that there is a definite link between gut health and mental health.
The reason gut health affects mental health is because of the ‘gut-brain axis’. This is a term used by experts to describe the two-way communication between the gut and the brain.
Researchers found that the gut sends neurotransmitters up to the brain through the nerves and the immune system. Likewise, the brain also sends signals to the gut. That’s why you’ll often find that when you are overly stressed or anxious, you get that ‘pit in the stomach’ feeling. Many people develop stomachaches when highly stressed.
When the gut-brain axis is off-balance, it impacts both your gut health and mental health. People suffering from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), for example, often suffer from anxiety and depression in addition to digestive issues.
Could Improving Gut Health Improve Mental Health Too?
Absolutely! Gut health is linked to mental health. Improving gut health will improve mental health too.
However, and this is very important to understand, all mental health issues are not necessarily due to bad gut health. This is not a diagnosis you should make on your own.
Although there is a definite link between gut health and mental health, it’s extremely important to seek advice from a doctor before attempting to boost gut health for mental health. Depression and anxiety can be caused by a wide range of things and they need professional diagnosis and treatment.
How to Improve Gut Health Naturally
We spoke earlier about good and bad gut bacteria and how they affect gut health. When you’re looking for how to improve gut health naturally, the key is by increasing the number of good gut bacteria and reducing or eliminating bad gut bacteria.
These are some things you can do to boost gut health naturally:
#1. Include probiotics in your diet: When you’re looking for foods to improve your gut health, start with probiotics. Probiotic foods are made with gut-friendly microorganisms. Best probiotic foods for gut health include yogurt, kefir, sourdough bread, and sour pickles. You can also get probiotics in the form of supplements.
#2. Include fermented foods in your diet: Fermented foods are among the best foods for a healthy gut. Although fermented foods and probiotic foods are both made with microorganisms, not all fermented foods are considered probiotics. Best fermented foods for gut health are kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, and miso soup. These foods are chock full of healthy bacteria, effectively increasing good gut bacteria. Aim to eat at least one portion a day for optimal gut health. If you’re new to fermented foods, start by consuming smaller amounts and increasing gradually.
#3. Drink ginger tea: Ginger is one of the best natural remedies for gut-related issues. It’s been used for more than 2000 years to boost gut health and the digestive system. Drinking ginger tea daily relaxes the intestinal muscles and helps the digestion process. Simply slice or crush a piece of ginger and steep in hot water for a few minutes to make a gut-friendly ginger tea.
#4. Consume bone broth at least once or twice a week: Bone broth is rich in a variety of nutrients and minerals that help in altering the gut microbiota composition. Strong, diverse gut microbiota is essential to break down food byproducts for proper absorption. Furthermore, the broth itself helps to hydrate the body, promoting better digestion and healthy, regular stools. Drinking bone broth is great but adding vegetables and herbs to the bone broth is even better as this will increase nutrient content and further aid in digestion
#5. Remove these foods from your diet: Aside from adding in more probiotic and fermented foods, it’s also a good idea to remove or reduce unhealthy foods such as empty carbs and sodas from your diet. Eating a well-balanced diet is vital to improving your gut health. Start by removing processed and unrefined foods from your diet, and eat more whole, clean, and fresh foods. Eat more home-cooked meals and fewer takeaways.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to serve as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before using any natural medication or if you experience any unusual symptoms. See Full Disclaimer here.