A good gut will go a long way in ensuring that our body is well taken care of—potentially affecting our skin health, mental energy and even sexual desires. “You are what you eat” could possibly never ring more true than in this case. It sounds simple in theory: gut health, is important. But it really boils down to what we’re putting in our bodies, a more deliberate management of how our internal systems are processing the daily changes we go through, and whether we’re actively feeding our microbiome with the bacteria that it craves.
In recent years, an emergence of gut-related consumables have started appearing, scattering themselves through the Internet: think fermented favourites like kombucha, touted to provide antioxidants for improving digestion and a suggested inclusion of shelf-recommended probiotics into one’s diet. The latter contributes to your overall digestive health by feeding your gut with live beneficial bacteria that not only eliminate bad bacteria, but also balance out the abundance of microbes within. Yet when it comes to achieving a good balance, relying solely on probiotic supplements is far from sufficient and should not be introduced as a replacement for a well-balanced diet: a naturally nutritional source of what the gut needs.
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With a myriad of options out there that feed our gut microbiome, how do we truly know what works for us? Considering it takes a toll on crucial aspects of our overall well-being such as serotonin and hormone levels, skin health, and mental wellness, we went with our gut feeling and asked Pooja Vig, the co-founder of The Nutrition Clinic, to dish her expert opinion on it all.
What does gut health refer to?
In general terms, gut health refers to how well your body is able to break down, digest and absorb nutrients. It’s also about your gut microbiome—home to trillions of bacteria and fungi that is connected to the state of your overall health. Your gut health impacts your immunity, metabolic processes, mood, your skin and how well you detox.
I like to think of the gut microbiome as a garden: protect and restore the lining of the gut, then add in the right nutraceuticals for it to flourish.
What are the common signs of an unhealthy gut?
Due to the interconnectedness of our body’s systems, symptoms can manifest in a variety of ways and are different for everyone. Common signs include bloating, abdominal discomfort, acid reflux, headaches, fatigue and sometimes sleep issues.
If you are experiencing any of this, my advice would be to not fight your symptoms. Do not be mad at them. Instead, pay attention to them, as they are the language your body is using to communicate with you. Pay attention to the healing that they hold.
What affects my gut health and how can we improve it?
The foods you eat, your habits and how stressed you are—including both emotional and physiological stress—will all impact your gut health.
Diet is key when you want to heal your digestive system. For example, you might not realise that you are actually sensitive to certain foods. Eating those foods over a long period of time may then actually cause damage to not just your gut lining but also an imbalance to your gut microbiome.
Pro-tips to take better care of your gut:
- Identify what sorts of food you’re sensitive to—it can make all the difference in gut health.
- Measure your gut flora and understand if you suffer from overgrowth of any flora i.e. candida yeasts
- Always make sure to chew your food
- Stress management is key: there is a direct network connecting the gut to your brain so stress can actually heavily impact your gut.
@tasteofnutrition Start with ADDING healthy habits instead of removing a random list of foods 🙏🏼 #guthealth #nutrition ♬ She Share Story (for Vlog) – 山口夕依
Probiotics are often recommended to improve gut health. How true is this claim?
Think of the gut like a garden and probiotics like seeds. They are important, as long as the soil itself is healthy. Don’t think of probiotics as a magic wand but part of a gut management strategy that looks at the soil (nutrients, stress, sleep etc) as well as the overall gut flora.
Many ingestibles are currently being recommended on the market for ‘digestive or bloating relief’. Is there anything we should look out for in particular?
The knowledge of gut health is currently a field that is growing exponentially. There are many elements to this and one has to take a system-based approach, by thinking about what impacts our entire gut system rather than distilling solutions down to one single item.
What sort of foods should we include in our diet to improve gut health?
We recommend gut-strengthening foods like bone broth and high-quality collagen. Contrary to popular belief, collagen does much more than just boosting skin elasticity. Collagen is the glue within that actually holds your body together. After the age of 25, our body’s ability to produce collagen decreases. Collagen with the right peptides will help strengthen your gut lining.
Our top diet tips to kickstart your journey to a healthy gut:
- Limit or avoid alcohol and sugar
- Avoid junk and processed foods
- Avoid foods you may be sensitive to
- Add superfoods to your diet: bone broth, collagen, aloe vera, fermented foods etc.
@ashleysauvehealth I’ve got 99 problems and so far 92 have been solved by minerals. 🥰✨🌿 #bonebroth #guthealth #herbalism #nettle #naturalalternatives ♬ Aesthetic – Tollan Kim
Does gut health differ for different genders and/or ages?
In general, the composition of the gut microbiota seems to be different between sexes. There is also an age related connection that is interesting. A microbiome that’s healthy for a 20-year-old is not at all healthy for an 80-year-old. Surprisingly, it’s good to have a changing microbiome when you’re old. It means that the bugs in your system are adjusting appropriately to an ageing body.
Do women’s periods affect our gut microbiome?
Yes! This is fascinating. One’s microbiome actually impacts the procession of oestrogen in the body. Hence, it can have a significant impact on premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and your overall hormonal health.