The Importance of Gut Health

Today I have a guest post from nutritionist Samantha Olivier of ripped.me. While the subject of digestion, aka “Gut Health”, may not be on your “Top Ten Interests” list, it should be. There is a direct connection between your digestive tract and your physical and mental health. We have all known people whose digestive system wreaks havoc when they are under stress.  Not to mention those horrible digestive conditions….. constipation…. diarrhea…. abdominal pain…. bloating. These conditions can affect all of us. And with more and more research demonstrating how a healthy gut corresponds to your overall health, it’s time to clean up our eating.

 If You are what you eat, what are YOU?

This will bring back memories of high school science.

Yes, you are what you eat. Over the past couple of years, we have witnessed new scientific findings which have absolutely proven this corny saying. The food we eat has a profound effect not only on our gastrointestinal tract, but also on our overall health and immunity. Moreover, there’s a strong link between the gut and the brain, meaning that our mental health is affected by our food choices, too. Still, many people neglect this, and gorge themselves on junk food and candy, thus eating their way to disease. Let’s see why a healthy gut is so important and what you should eat to keep it running like clockwork.

Your secret weapon

Almost 70% of the entire immune system resides in the gastrointestinal system, which means that the gut wall is lined with immune cells. In other words, your first line of defense against all kinds of diseases is located in your gut. It’s clear that poor, unbalanced nutrition can make a mess in the gut flora and weaken the immune system, which in turn leads to various allergies, skin disorders, autoimmune diseases. Inflammation is one of the body’s ways of fighting injuries and infections, and it’s a completely normal reaction. However, chronic inflammation is something completely different and can be dangerous, because it causes an uncontrollable proliferation of immune cells, thus increasing the risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other serious diseases. Sugar is one of the most notorious inflammatory foods, and it’s followed by processed foods, trans fats, gluten, and alcohol. Eliminating all those ingredients from your diet and switching to low-sugar fruits, vegetables rich in fiber, and natural, unprocessed foods is essential. A balanced diet looks something like this, and can significantly improve your overall health and quality of life.

Your source of energy

If you notice that you’re constantly tired, exhausted, and sluggish even if you sleep enough, the issue may be caused by imbalances in your gut bacteria. Chronic fatigue syndrome is usually paired with irritable bowel syndrome or abdominal discomfort. Restoring the balance is crucial for boosting your energy levels. A lack of certain vitamins and minerals can also lead to loss of energy, so increase the intake of vitamin C, vitamin B12, and magnesium. Omega-3 fatty acids are among the key ingredients for eliminating not only chronic fatigue, but also preventing heart disease, cancer, or arthritis. They’re also known for improving cognitive functions of the brain. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are fatty fish such as sardines, tuna, salmon, or mackerel, whole grains, olive oil, garlic, and fresh fruit.

Can lift your spirits

As we’ve already mentioned, there’s a strong link between your brain and gut. If you’ve experienced mood swings, brain fog, anxiety, or depression, your gut might be signaling you to change your diet. Does this mean you should eat some comfort food? By no means! Fast food, candy, and other foods that give you that instant feeling of pleasure are the worst choice. Namely, according to the latest research, gut microbiota, which is a fancy term for gut bacteria, is capable of producing neurotransmitters such as serotonin, known as one of the happiness hormones. Gut microbiota contains both good and bad bacteria, and establishing a healthy balance is crucial. Again, sugar is the bad guy, as it feeds bad gut bacteria. By eliminating it from your diet, you’ll starve bad bacteria and help good bacteria to flourish and grow. Fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, or kombucha increase the levels of lactobacilli, or good bacteria, in your intestines. Polyphenols, that can be found in grape skin, dark chocolate, red wine, almonds, or blueberries, also promote the production of good bacteria, and in turn lift your spirits.

Makes your skin glow

It’s no secret that people with digestive problems such as constipation or leaky gut syndrome tend to have skin issues. This connection is even science-backed, as it has been shown that people who suffer from rosacea are 10 times more likely to be affected by small intestine bacterial overgrowth. Another study has found that 54% of people with acne have impaired bacterial microflora. So, if you want your skin to be impeccable, blemish-free, and radiant, you’ll first have to soothe your gut. Needless to say, you should forget about processed foods and sugar, as inflammation is also one of the main factors for causing skin disorders. Apart from drinking plenty of water and green tea, in order to flush toxins from your body, you should also stick to a diet rich in:

  • vitamins C and A, as they help your skin become firm;
  • omega-3 fatty acids, as they keep inflammation at bay;
  • protein, which is essential for the production of collagen and elastin responsible for a wrinkle-free skin.

 

Instead of dairy products, which are known for their inflammatory properties, use almond milk and prevent rashes and acne.

As you can see, your gut can profoundly affect other major organ systems, and that’s why its health is crucial for your overall well-being.

Samantha Olivier, B.Sc. in nutrition, is editor in chief of ripped.me . Samantha is a personal trainer and avid writer, whose mission in life is to educate consumers and conquer the blogosphere. Visit ripped.me for great health and wellness content.

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