Gut health is a lifestyle, not just a diet, as the gut is a reflection of more than the foods we eat, but rather, an indicator of our stress levels and self-care practice. While diet plays an intricate role in achieving optimal gut health, new research revels stress levels are equally if not more important in helping maintain a healthy gut.
Let’s first start with a basic review of the fundamentals of gut health.
A healthy gut is determined by the collection of bacteria that resides in the gut, or your microbiome, as well as the fungi AKA mycobiome. Optimal gut health is achieved by maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria and fungi as well as a healed gut lining.
Microbiome & Mycobiome
The collection of bacteria that resides in the gut, also known as the microbiome, and the diverse assortment of fungi, or mycobiome, are responsible for nearly your entire immune system. The overgrowth of bad bacteria can cause many complications like dysbiosys, a microbial imbalance in the gut, which may eventually lead to more serious conditions
The gut lining is comprised of epithelial cells that are bound together by tight junctions. When these junctions are impaired, it causes the gut to become permeable allowing undigested foods and toxins to seep into the bloodstream, also known as “leaky gut.” When the gut lining becomes leaky, it can lead to a myriad of other health concerns.
Here are three top ways to live the gut health lifestyle:
The best diet for optimal gut health is consuming a wide variety of wholesome fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, sustainably raised meats, and moderate amounts of properly prepared grains and dairy.
Ferments are an excellent addition to the diet as they help balance the gut flora due to their probiotic content, or the beneficial bacteria that reside in the gut. Foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, a Korean version of sauerkraut, are excellent sources of probiotics.
Fiber is essential for gut health as it is an excellent source of prebiotics, or what probiotics feed on in the gut. In fact, studies show that diets high in fiber displayed an improved profile of bacteria which had been linked to weight loss. Those that consumed diets high in fiber also contained a more diverse microbiome population. Some of the best high fiber foods to consume are leafy greens as they are good sources of B vitamins and vitamin C which both aid in preventing an overgrowth of the fungus Candida, most commonly associated with yeast.
In addition to ferments and fiber, bone has a number of health benefits that help support gut health. For instance, it is full of nutrients like collagen and L.Glutamine that help heal the gut lining and reduce inflammation. Plus, it contains numerous vitamins and minerals that are essential for proper hydration.
One of the main reasons that gut health is more of a lifestyle than a diet is because of the important role exercise plays in supporting a healthy gut. According to a study, physically active mice displayed a different composition of gut bacteria that was said to enhance nutrient absorption, lower cholesterol levels, and exerts an anti-inflammatory response. This theory was further supported by another study where researchers concluded that athletes contained a more diverse microbiome, which lack of microbiome diversify has been linked to dysfunction of the gut. Additionally, physical activity was recommended as a treatment modality for irritable bowel syndrome as researchers concluded that exercise improved GI symptoms with IBS and many patients who exercised experienced less symptom deterioration than those who did not exercise.
The gut is an excellent indicator of stress levels as stress has been cited as being equally if not more damaging on the gut than food.
When the body endures chronic stress, it results in an eternal state of increased inflammation, a natural response by our immune system. If chronic stress is endured over a prolonged period, the gut lining weakens and may even become permeable, allowing toxins to inundate the blood stream. This further leads to a decline in the immune system which ultimately may result in serious health complications.
One of the most popular practices in helping to reduce stress is meditation. There are several meditation methods like mantra meditations and breathing techniques that share similar stress reducing components encouraging relaxation, ultimately accomplishing similar health benefits. For more information on meditation and gut health, check out my latest article here where I also offer a guided body scan to help bring awareness to the entire body.
Photo courtesy of Carley Smith.
Carley Smith, AKA Fairy Gutmother®, is a Nutritional Therapist, Certified GAPS Practitioner, and Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT). She became interested in health and nutrition after being diagnosed with Lyme disease and using food as medicine emphasizing gut health to help heal. She became so empowered in the progress in her healing just based on diet and lifestyle changes and focusing on gut health that she started Fairy Gutmother® so she could help spread awareness around nutrition and help others. When she is not working or cooking up something delicious, she loves spending time in the mountains, hiking, yoga, reading and being with her family and friends and of course her dog Marty. www.fairygutmother.com