Focusing on gut health is the latest most prominent health trend; it has been for a few years now. Raise your hand if you have seen these two words show up everywhere yet still have no idea what it means and where to start…! Don’t worry; I won’t judge you. I am fascinated by digestive health, but only because of my issues that arose about five years ago. Gut health more specifically refers to the microorganisms living in your intestines. The microbiome may mean a ‘small environment,’ but it is of enormous importance to your health.
Did you know that the microbes in your gut are as unique to you as your fingerprint? Although factors like our genes, ethnicity, age, sex, eating and physical habits, stress levels, medications, environment, and sleep play a significant role in our health, our individual dietary needs are very much linked to our gut.
Research shows that people react differently to the same foods due to people’s microbiomes – the unique collection of their good and bad bacteria. Bacterial profiles play a massive role in how the body absorbs nutrients and detoxes. Studies have found that when looking at obese people’s microbiome, they have a less diverse microbiome than thin people, proving that variation in bacteria is key to health and weight maintenance. Our microbes also play a critical role in hormone production and regulation. Take serotonin, for instance, you may know this important neurotransmitter as the happiness hormone, and a whopping 90% of it is made in the gut! So, it’s clear that working towards a healthier and happier you starts your stomach, and that is why my nutritional coaching focuses on just that!
Here are six uncomplicated practices to incorporate towards your gut health today.
How you eat is maybe just as important as what you eat. Especially when it comes to your gut health, focusing on your food and food alone, minus the mindless scrolling on your phone or watching tv, can take your digestion to the next level. Want to step it up a notch? For optimal digestion, you can even pair soft belly breathing with eating slowly; this way, you can be more aware of your body’s fullness cues, so you don’t overeat and overload your system.
Maybe the most underrated and straightforward way of helping not on your gut but overall health. With all this wellness stuff, it is essential not to forget the basics. Drinking water shows to be beneficial to the mucosal lining of your intestines too.
Prebiotics are dietary fibers that support and feed your gut bacteria! Some great examples of dietary prebiotics are asparagus, leeks, bananas, garlic, and onions. Probiotics are the beneficial live bacteria we can consume that improve digestive health. Some great probiotic foods and drinks are; sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, tempeh, miso and kombucha.
There are two types of fiber. Soluble and insoluble. Both fibers are essential; however, it’s the soluble fiber in our whole foods that pass through our digestive tract and helps regulate your bowel movements. My favorite whole foods containing insoluble fiber are wholegrain foods, carrots, parsnips, celery, beans, chia- and hemp seeds!
Stress directly influences the gut. Did you know your gut and brain physically connect via our vagus nerve? Your gut and brain are linked! We call this the gut-brain axis. Incorporate yoga and soft belly breathing is a great way to support your stress and digestion simultaneously.
When we lack sleep, we put our bodies under a lot of stress, which, as I just mentioned, has a tremendous impact on your gut health. Being exhausted and having a disruptive night’s sleep influences our hunger and satiety hormones that regulate our food intake. Research shows that
a lack of sleep has been found to trigger increased levels of ghrelin and decreased levels of leptin3, leading to increased hunger and appetite.