Our digestion can be a fickle thing; one that is part of our life every day, all day. Not only is it affected by what we eat and drink, but also by our schedules, sleeping patterns, stress levels, external surroundings, and so much more. With all of these things to take into consideration it's no wonder we can feel out of balance at times. Yet with some education, self-awareness and TLC you can give your body what it needs to work in harmony and focus your energy on the things that matter to you most.
Sometimes we may be acutely aware of our digestive discomfort with symptoms like bloating, constipation and myriad of other unsavory things... you get the idea. However, there are some other symptoms that may surprise you to know are also related to our digestive health and may be a sign that your gut needs some TLC. These include: lack of energy, unexplained weight gain, dull skin or rosacea, cracked nails, arthritis, acne, thinning hair and allergies; to name a few. Many people suffer from gut discomfort and yet don't want to draw attention to it or discuss it; so they suffer in silence accepting it as a way of life. I'm not shy and would love to discuss it here in the hopes that it will help anyone who reads it.
I find the body fascinating; the endless ways it can ail us, and heal us never ceases to amaze me. However, if it feels like it is working out of balance it certainly doesn't feel amazing; in fact it can be downright stressful and uncomfortable at times. By digging a little deeper we can begin to understand how it operates; after all it's the only body we get so we might as well tune in and learn what makes us tick.
The science behind our gut health.
Your gut is swimming with about 100 trillion bacteria and is home to 70-80% of your immune cells. It serves as a gatekeeper of your body's immune system; letting helpful compounds in, and evicting ones that inflict harm. This bacteria is often referred to as either "good bacteria" or "bad bacteria." The good bacteria aids in digestion and helps get the healthy vitamins and nutrients from your digested food into your bloodstream, as well as promoting healthy flora in your gut lining. Bad bacteria acts as a breeding ground for uncomfortable symptoms like gas, bloating or inflammation; if not treated or killed off it will eventually lead to a comprised lining in your gut, chronic issues or disease.
How to promote a healthy gut.
Probiotics are a great way to promote a healthy gut and build up your good bacteria; I recommend starting with foods before trying a supplement. Foods higher in probiotics include: fermented vegetables like sauerkraut or cabbage, yogurt with active cultures, raw apple cider vinegar, Kefir milk, and kombucha. You can also nourish healthful flora with prebiotics, which contain non-digestible carbohydrates found in whole grains, onions, garlic, leeks, artichokes, asparagus, and chicory root. It is best to avoid consuming large quantities of foods high in sugar or saturated fats because that will manifest the bad bacteria.
Your body is different than anyone else's and therefore may need different diet and lifestyle adjustments before you figure out what works best for you. If you sense that certain foods may upset your stomach try cutting each one out of your diet for two weeks at a time and then note how you feel when you incorporate it back in... if the symptoms return it may be best to avoid that food for now.
Ever heard of the term "gut instinct"? You likely have... that is because there are many receptors in our body that connect our brain and our gut. This allows our stomach to communicate to our brain when its hungry, stressed or emotional. Our feelings and instincts, both physical and emotional start in our gut even before it has communicated to our brain.
Noting your triggers.
This brings us to the importance of managing stress. Stress can be a trigger of physical aliments and can actually alter the make up of your gut, causing a decrease in your healthy bacteria, and an increase in inflammatory chemicals. If you are feeling anxious, stressed, or out of balance it could be your gut trying to communicate to you that something needs to change. Simply raising your awareness and taking note of what is causing it and trying to eliminate or alleviate overstress with a schedule change, increased rest time, exercise or meditation can make a big difference in your well being.
Your gut instinct is usually right on target, so let it be heard and treat it with care.