In the 21st century we hear the term “gut health” thrown around daily, it has unfortunately become a bit of a buzz word and therefore we no longer give our poor guts the respect and care they deserve.
The gut, otherwise known as ‘the digestive system’, is an organ that consists of a long tube that beings at our mouth and ends at our anus. It is approximately 10 metres long and includes the oesophagus, stomach, small intestine and colon.
Its function is primarily to consume and digest food, absorb nutrients and expel waste, however it plays many other vital roles in supporting both our physical health and mental wellness.
We are reporting more gut health problems than ever before, this can be anything from more obvious symptoms such as bloating, flatulence and constipation; but also depression, anxiety, mood swings, obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, frequent illness, arthritis and eczema can all be linked to poor gut health (Campbell 2014).
Unfortunately, this rise in poor gut health is a direct result of our modern lifestyles. We are more stressed than ever, we barely sleep and our diets has changed monumentality. We are consuming new strains of grains, eating genetically modified crops, using pesticides, fungicides and insecticides on our fruit and vegetables, injecting our dairy cows and poultry with hormones and antibiotics which are passed up the food chain, we are creating food from artificial chemicals such as sweeteners, preservatives and flavourings and consume huge amounts of salt.
We then prescribe pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics, antacids, histamine blockers and proton pump inhibitors to deal with our bloating, illness or inflammation; which may treat the symptoms but fail to address the underlying issue.
Therefore, despite “gut health healing” being a slightly overused term, it is SO important to look after our digestive system for more than just its ability to digest food; here are five hidden reasons to fix our guts.
1. Increase fat loss
In 2004 research has linked a potential relationship between poor gut health and the development of obesity (Gordon 2004).
If our gut is unhealthy, it is likely to be full of harmful bacteria. This can cause inflammation within our bodies, leading to our bodies becoming insulin resistant, this means our bodies cannot utilise the food we eat efficiently and store it as excess body fat. However if we optimise our gut health, we can increase insulin sensitivity, use food as fuel and lose body fat and decrease weight (Snedeker 2012).
2. Improve mood
Our gut and brain are linked through the neuronal system; this means they send messages to one another. If the health of the gut is poor this gut-brain axis will not be signalling abnormally which can affect the function of the central nervous system, leading to symptoms such as low mood, fatigue and anxiety. Conversely it also works the other way around, so stress will impact the central nervous system and affect gut function. (Cryan 2012).
3. Resolve food intolerances
Intolerances to lactose, wheat and gluten have increased dramatically over recent years, simultaneously as our gut health has diminished. This is not a coincidence, if the thin barrier in the gut is damaged, partially digested food particles and bacteria can get through and travel through the blood stream causing a strain on our immune system and trigger and inflammatory response. Our body then triggers an inflammatory response every time this food is consumed (Lyon 2002).
By performing an elimination diet and ensuring our gut health is optimal by healing the barrier we can resolve food intolerances and enjoy a varied diet.
4. Decrease Illness
If our guts are healthy we are less likely to get ill, this includes less chance of getting anything from the common cold to pneumonia. This is likely to be due to two reasons, firstly if the gut lining is undamaged it will not let harmful bacteria to enter the body, secondly it will control our inflammatory response to illness to support recovery ((Shijt 2016).
5. Increase energy levels
If our guts are healthy we are able to absorb the vitamins and minerals we consume in our diets, meaning we are meeting our bodies need of micronutrients to keep it functioning well and providing us with energy.
If our gut health is suboptimal we will struggle to absorb nutrients leading to deficiencies in many vital vitamins and minerals. This can lead to feelings of chronic fatigue and lethargy. Even if we are consuming the right foods to improve energy levels, we can cannot absorb them if our gut health is diminished.
To conclude, we need to focus on fixing our guts, not only to reduce symptoms of bloating and regulate bowel movement but also to lose fat, improve mood, resolve food intolerances, decrease illness and increase energy levels.
So, if you suffer with any of the following you may benefit from fixing your gut;
• Bloating, gas, diarrhoea, constipation
• Depression, anxiety, mood swings, irritability
• Food sensitivities and intolerances
• Difficulty losing excess body fat
• Insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes
• Frequent illness’ or infections
• Autoimmune diseases
• Eczema, skin rashes
• Poor memory, ADHD
If you’re interested in improving your gut health naturally, click here to learn how.
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