Do you have a Healthy Gut?

Before we answer this let’s understand a little more about the gut.

Firstly, every system in our body is connected to our gut, otherwise known as our digestive system. Our gut microbiome or ‘gut flora’ consists of trillions of good and bad bacteria and constitutes 70% of our immune system.  In the last 20 years many studies have demonstrated the links between the health of the gut microbiome and its impact on the immune system, mental health, mood, weight issues, skin problems, fertility, hormone imbalances, heart and lung problems and even cancer. It is believed that at least 90% of all diseases can be tracked back to the gut and health of the microbiome.

Beneficial bacteria helps to maintain the structure and function of your gut lining; allowing only key nutrients to pass into the blood and keeping food particles and other toxic waste out. However, overtime the gut lining can become compromised, allowing food and toxins to pass into the blood, creating food intolerances, impairing immunity and resulting in autoimmune diseases like celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis (see image: leaky gut progression).

What determines a healthy gut?

Diet

Your diet plays an integral role in supporting your overall gut health. A poor diet can feed the bad bacteria in the gut, trigger inflammation and create ‘leaky gut’

  • Foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates (cereals, bread, pre-packaged sauces)
  • Refined vegetable oils (sunflower, canola, corn and soybean oils)
  • Pasteurized dairy products and poor quality, non-organic meat, poultry and eggs (animals are often given genetically modified corn, other cheap ingredients and antibiotics in their feed)
  • Alcohol, medications, foods additives, artificial ingredients and chemicals
  • Use of antibiotics; just one course can destroy much of the beneficial bacteria required to support your immune system

 Stress

  • Blood flow to the digestive system is restricted during stressful periods, affecting your digestion and nutrient intake. Ongoing stress can harm and reduce the beneficial bacteria, allowing undesirable bacteria to thrive.
  • Ongoing stress can make the digestive tract more permeable or ‘leaky’ allowing food particles to pass into the blood, which can lead to food intolerances and allergies.

Sleep

  • Our microbiome is regulated by circadian rhythm and when this is disrupted, the health, diversity and functioning of beneficial bacteria in our gut suffers. Furthermore, studies have also shown how the health of our gut bacteria can affect sleep quality.

Exercise

  • Several studies have demonstrated that an increase in exercise, and specifically high intensity interval training, has prevented a poorer diet from degrading beneficial gut bacteria.

Having Sex

  • Some studies have shown we are instinctually attracted to sexual partners whose microbiome can complement and diversify our own. It’s a complicated topic but worthy of a mention.

Natural delivery and breastfeeding

  • When a mother gives birth vaginally and breastfeeds, she passes essential beneficial bacteria to her baby which can massively influence the baby’s health.

 Living with animals

  • Early-life exposure to pets, can help increase the microbial diversity of our gut. Furthermore, some of these bacterial strains were found to be associated with lower risk of childhood obesity and early allergies.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.

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