Our gut health is a fascinating and complex ecosystem and it's a little-known fact that good digestive health is the key to overall well-being and happiness. To be healthy on the outside, you need to be healthy on the inside and this all begins with the gut.
The immune system and the gut are intricately linked, with around 75% (give or take) of the body's immune tissue located in the digestive system. This is making it the body's first line of defence against harmful toxins, bacteria and diseases. When our digestive system is working well and is in tip-top shape, it is typically home to trillions of 'good' bacteria and microbes that outnumber the body's cells by 10 to one. This helps the body in a number of ways by:
When our digestive system is working well and is in tip-top shape, it is typically home to trillions of 'good' bacteria and microbes that outnumber the body's cells by 10 to one.
This helps the body in a number of ways by:
There are times when 'bad' gut flora and bacteria, such as pathogens, fungi and yeast can take over. When this happens, the overload of 'bad' bacteria creates an imbalance in all of the body's systems, which can cause a breakdown in the body's ability to process nutrients.
It can also compromise the integrity of the intestines and contribute to 'leaky gut' (something else we hear a lot about these days), a condition where undigested toxins and waste particles enter the bloodstream through tiny holes that appear in the lining of the gut.
This can cause all sorts of health issues (enter skin problems, allergies, inflammation, tiredness and low energy, foggy-brain, bloating, poor digestion) and can lower the strength of our immune systems, making us more vulnerable to illness.
There are lots of things that can alter the good/bad balance of bacteria in our system, most of which are the side effects of modern life. Common triggers can include medications (including antibiotics), an unhealthy diet (think processed and refined foods, junk foods, high sugar, and too many inflammatory foods), stress (this can be mental, emotional and physical), not enough sleep (I know I go on about sleep a lot (!!!) but it affects our cortisol levels which in turn affects our mood), pollution, and more.
The awesome news is that we can turn our gut health around with diet, patience and a healthy amount of probiotics and prebiotics.
The patience bit is really important - think of lots of consistent 'right' action towards obtaining good gut health!
Here are some at-home, begin-now ways to keep your gut flora happy, especially as we transition through yet another change of season.
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The proven strains of good bacteria are the lactobacillus and bifidobacterium species, which help to repopulate the gut with good flora. Most yoghurts and probiotic drinks contain these strains, although unfortunately the bacteria counts are usually not high enough to make a health impact and they are usually also loaded with gut-compromising ingredients, like refined sugar, which bad bacteria thrives on. Instead, take a dedicated probiotic supplement.
The process of lacto-fermentation naturally creates loads of good bacteria that help to strengthen and rebuild your gut. This is because lacto-fermented food contains lactobacilli, which lines the gut with good flora and helps with digestion. Sauerkraut, miso, kefir, natto and kimchi are great digestion-boosting foods and can help to heal the gut.
Prebiotics feed the probiotics, so if you want a thriving, healthy gut, you need to nourish the good bacteria with the right stuff. Essentially, prebiotics are the non-digestible food substances that hang around in the body to serve as lunch for the probiotics - asparagus, bananas, garlic, onions, leeks, endive, chicory, shallots, glove and Jerusalem artichokes and sauerkraut are good sources.
Originally published by Tanya Ellison of The wellness Hub