How familiar are you with your digestive system? Have you gotten so used to those tummy pains that you have self-medicated and now follow home remedies to ease an upset stomach? But what you might not know is that your gut health is causing some of these aches and pains. As simple as our digestive system seems to be, our gut microbiome has been shown to have a significant impact on our immune system.
What is Gut Health?
In a nutshell, the gut microbiome refers to the bacteria or microorganisms that live in our intestines. How much bacteria? According to Harvard Health, there are nearly 100 trillion bacteria living in our bodies right now. This includes a mix of good and bad bacteria. What’s more, each person’s gut microbiota is unique, but, generally, the same type of good bacteria can be mapped out and identified in healthy humans.
You might be wondering what will happen if bad bacteria are not taken care of. Recent studies have shown that unhealthy gut microbiota is linked to exacerbation in inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). While diseases linked with IBD can indeed be debilitating, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be controlled. Many advances in modern medicine can be recommended by your doctor when you talk to them about IBD treatment plans.
Signs to Watch Out For
How do you know you have a bad gut? Some signs you need to watch out for include:
- Food intolerance – Not to be confused with food allergies, food intolerance means its difficult for your digestive system to break down the enzymes in certain products. Dairy products, for example. These trigger foods could cause diarrhea, bloating, and flatulence.
- Inability to sleep or chronic fatigue – We need serotonin to help us sleep better, and while its function is mostly controlled by our brains, 90 percent of this hormone is actually produced in our gut. Thus, bad gut bacteria equal to restless nights.
- Fluctuations in weight – Gaining a pound one week and then losing another two the next may seem normal to you but it could be because of bad bacteria in your gut. A small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) could be causing the unexpected weight loss, while insulin resistance is making you gain weight.
- Skin irritations – You might think it’s allergies once again, but some forms of eczema have been shown to be caused by leaky gut syndrome, where certain proteins released by your gut show up on your skin as itchy rashes.
Things to Do to Improve Gut Health
Now that we know the importance of maintaining a healthy gut, here are some things you can do to ensure that it remains so.
- Manage your stress – Do you ever feel queasy when you’re stressed out? Yes, that’s because your gut is also reacting to how you feel. Look for ways that appeal to you to better manage your stress and help you lead a more relaxing life.
- Mindful eating – In other words, eat slowly. But more than that, this also means you should be more aware of the food you consume. Living a healthy life is often the first step we can take in combating any illness.
- Take pre or probiotics – Prebiotic supplements are meant to “feed” the good bacteria, while probiotics are live good bacteria you can take to improve your gut microbiota. Taking a combination of both will greatly improve your gut health.
As we can see, gut health has a big impact on our lives. Therefore, the typical advice we get about living healthily (eating right, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, etc.) is also applicable in maintaining a healthy gut.