The human gut has, as of late, been quite the topic of discussion of both researchers and the public quite unlike any other topic. Not only being the topic of discussion but also active research, as the amount of research papers published in recent years about it go into the hundreds, if not thousands.
It’s an unusual, but in any way good twist that a topic that a decade ago would seem as bore inducing as being stuck in traffic, is now very common interest for people of all lifestyles and ages.
However, as with many topics that is of interest to the vast population, there is an amassing abundance of false information, misconceptions, oversimplification of this particular topic as well.
To combat that, we have compiled all the information that you need to know about gut health below!
What Exactly is Gut Microbiome
We begin by explaining the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is a collection of trillions upon trillions of bacteria, fungi and viruses that serve a crucial role in our overall health.
Much research has been done about the subject at hand, and in doing that it has identified links between gut health and many other things such as cognitive performance, mood, skin conditions, overall mental health, immune functions, endocrine disorders, autoimmune disorders and more!
Another fun, but shocking fact to many is that there are actually more bacteria present in your body than human cells. Researchers state an estimate of around 40 trillion bacterial cells in your body, while the number of human cells is more around the 30 trillion mark. So, basically what this means is that the human body, our bodies, are more bacteria than they are human!
Now, as we mentioned before, your gut health is practically directly tied to almost every part of your existence. With that said, we can now move on with how the health of the gut can affect both your stress levels and your mood.
The links between the gut microbiome and health
One of the common things that tie us humans together is the stress that we experience every day, whether it be from work, home, another person or otherwise. While stress is mostly considered by the vast majority as something inherently negative, the hard fact is that we need stress, not only to survive, but also thrive as a person.
We can take resistance training as an example, as it’s a form of an acute stressor to your entire physiology, and when done with the right amount, it can lead to your body becoming much stronger. That’s what some may call – “good stress”.
But what about the so called “bad” or chronic stress? The time when stress goes bad is when it’s a part of your normal way of life. When people are overwhelmed by stress it can lead to a plethora of negative effects and changes to your body. Such changes could be in sleep, hormone production, energy storage (aka the fat storage, especially in and around the thighs, glutes and midsection), overall motivation and productivity, mood, and recovery.
How does this tie in with health of the gut? Well stress can factor in many gut health disorders, one of which is irritable bowel syndrome, more commonly known as IBS.
And the spoiled cherry on top of all of this, chronic stress affects the number and diversity of your good gut bacteria quite negatively, which can in turn lead to an imbalance between the good and the bad bacteria present in the gut, that condition is known as gut dysbiosis.
All of this bacterial disbalance can also lead to inflammation, which is implicated in some research to be linked to the development of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, as well as being linked to weight gain.
Lastly, being plagued with chronic stress can also weaken the lining of the gut, which allows pathogens quite the easy access to the bloodstream which negatively impacts your physiology.
But, don’t get discouraged! Stress can absolutely be managed, and you can achieve better gut health in a great number of ways, some of them we have listed below.
Simple ways to improve gut health
Optimize your diet – Gut Health Foods
Here are the facts: the microbiome of the gut is in a constant state of fluctuation, which means what you eat every day impacts the quantity and diversity of the bacteria in your gut directly.
With that said, it is of great importance that your diet revolves around healthy foods, foods that are not processed or minimally so, and those that are rich in minerals, fiber and vitamins.
The main food for the good bacteria in your gut is fiber. So, it’s recommended to up the amount of fiber filled foods in your diet, so that you don’t let the good bacteria die and leave space for the process of dysbiosis to begin. Those types of foods that are rich in fiber are generally vegetables, fruits and whole grains, so you better start eating more of them.
In combination to the fiber, which as we stated before fuels the good gut bacteria, you should also look into foods that are full of probiotics – so that more of that good bacteria can populate the gut. Some of the foods that are rich in probiotics are fermented foods such as: yoghurt, kombucha, kimchi, tempeh, pickles, sauerkraut, kefir, miso, and some cheeses such as mozzarella, cheddar and gouda for example.
Another thing you should be doing is cutting back on the processed food and alcohol, as these things can irritate and disrupt the GI system.
Increase your daily exercise
Going by we mentioned above, stress can be very beneficial to us, only when it’s the right amount. That being said, it’s recommended to incorporate physical activity in the form of exercise in your every day life, since it’s been shown to improve your gut health.
Not only that, but regular daily exercise has also shown to improve your mood and lower your stress levels as well, which of course impacts gut health directly.
Regarding the form of exercise you should take, there are many types to choose from whether it be high intensity interval training, resistance training or cross fit! But if your more on the mellow side, you can just do about 2o to 30 minutes of walking a day and it will have some of the same effects, such as alleviating stress which will make a huge difference in regards to the health of your gut.
Sleep is seriously important
Sleep is a crucial part of the daily human cycle, so much in fact that not getting enough will have a grave impact not only on the health of your gut, but your overall health and wellness as well. Your stress levels increase, your motivation and want for exercise decreases, you begin to have more food cravings, especially for food high in calories and sugar or salt, which can contribute to even more sleep issues and worse gut health and continue the unhealthy cycle.
Making sleep a priority is what everyone should be doing, and you should aim to have, at the very least, 7 to 8 hours of good, quality sleep every night.
Here we have some tips to help you improve your sleep and gut health!
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine before bed
- Pray, meditate, or journal
- Make your room dark and cool
- Stretch or do some light yoga
- Setting a specific bedtime
- Avoid blue light 2 hours before bed
- Avoid sources of stress before bed (texts, social media, news, work emails, etc.)
Add supplements to improve gut health.
Incorporating supplements into diet plans has been becoming increasingly common, so it wouldn’t hurt to add some additional prebiotic fiber and probiotics to promote better gut health into your diet.
Prebiotic fiber is a supplement that provides food for the good bacteria present in the gut, and the probiotics are actually live good bacteria. Prebiotic-rich foods include artichokes, bananas, asparagus, oats and apple.s
Add magnesium to your diet – magnesium deficient diet is associated with higher intestinal inflammation, and reduced Bifidobacterium, a major component of the gut microbiome.
Add L-glutamine – research has shown that glutamine can improve the growth of intestinal cells also known as enterocytes. It may also help to regulate the function of the intestinal barrier during stress.
What we can take away from this is that the human gut is a fascinating organ in our bodies that influences and impacts just about every part of our daily lives, such as our immunity, heart and brain health, mood, sleep, exercise performance, and efficient digestion.
To optimize the health of your gut is a pretty simple feat, just use the same tactics you have when doing a transformation challenge: have a healthier diet, good amount of quality sleep, regular exercise of course and the right supplementation.
It is recommended that you observe your daily habits to see if they actually promote good gut health or not, and if they are not sufficient try out some of the tips and tricks mentioned in this article and you’ll see the difference.