What exactly is a healthy gut? And how can you know if you have one? There is surely tons of confusing information out there on this subject, but once you understand the basics around what makes for a healthy gut and what you can do everyday to have a healthier one, your body will certainly thank you! Before we jump into how to have a thriving gut, we should probably go over what it is in the first place, along with the signs that you may have an unhealthy one.
Let’s start with defining the gut as there is a common misconception that the gut and stomach are the same thing, which is untrue! Essentially the gut, which is the common word to describe the gastrointestinal (GI) system, is how your body is able to digest and absorb nutrients, as well as excrete the waste products. And contrary to what you might think, this system begins in the mouth where food initially enters and allows the digestion process to begin. The GI system includes a team of several different key players (organs) that then transform the food into energy!
How the gut works
As stated above, the entire digestive process begins in the mouth. Once you take a bite of something and start chewing, your body automatically starts increasing the saliva production to assist in digesting the food. There are powerful enzymes in saliva which work to break down starches into sugars that the body can then absorb, which give you energy throughout the day. After being relayed from the mouth to your stomach through the pathway of the esophagus, digestion begins to take place. From here, digestive enzymes are secreted so that proteins, fats, and carbohydrates can be broken down even further. These tiny molecules are then absorbed in the small intestine before moving along to the large intestine which soaks up any excess water. Lastly, any undigested waste products leave the body through the passing of feces.
Simply put, a healthy gut means that your body can easily produce 1-2 bowel movements a day in a smooth, unforced manner. Although it sounds like a straightforward process, what you eat then goes out, many people experience problems within their gut that they may or may not be aware of. These problems ranging from mild to severe are expressed in the forms of gas, bloating, constipation, and/or diarrhea. But just in case you aren’t experiencing one of the aforementioned digestive inconveniences, the body may use other symptoms to express the discomfort.
Common Signs of an Unhealthy Gut
Do you ever feel like you are dragging along through the day? Does the second cup of coffee still not seem to get the job done? While feelings of being tired may stem from several sources including iron or blood sugar levels, water intake, or the amount of sleep you are getting, another cause could very well be gut microbiome imbalances. The microbiome within the human body, just as with the nature we find outdoors, consists of bacteria, fungi, microorganisms, and viruses that exist in the gastrointestinal tract. Chronic feelings of fatigue may be a result of this system being out of balance.
- Food cravings
Another potential sign could be intense cravings, as excessive sweet and salty desires can lead to unhealthy amounts of “bad” bacteria in the gut. The body often cries for sugar or salt-filled treats when it is lacking essential vitamins and minerals. Cravings are definitely worth looking into more than satisfying it instantly with your favorite snack. And be careful because too much sugar or salt can really tip your body out of balance in more ways than just poor digestion.
- Irritated Skin
There has been much research conducted to show the relation between the gut and the skin. As stated in one article, it is said that “the GI system, particularly the gut microbiome, appears to participate in the pathophysiology of many inflammatory disorders.” And two of the most common skin disorders brought on from the gut microbiome environment include acne and psoriasis. Considering that the gut and the skin are both vital organs for maintaining homeostasis (the process that keeps organisms in balance,) it makes sense how they would be closely responsible for each other’s current state!
All of these symptoms are worth discussing with your doctor to receive a more professional and personalized diagnosis regarding the root of these issues.
Now that we’ve established what the gut is and signs that it may be out of balance, let’s discuss one of the easiest methods you can implement to ensure a healthy GI tract. When exploring how to increase good bacteria in the gut naturally, as mundane as it may sound, you will find that one of the biggest secrets to no surprise is to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. But fortunately, even if produce isn’t usually your thing, there are so many foods that are good for your gut that you should never find yourself bored and running low on options. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is to diversify your foods throughout the day and this will keep your insides more inline.
How to diversify your foods
A diverse microbiome tends to be a healthy one so be mindful of the diversity in the foods you are eating on a daily basis. Fruits and vegetables are the strongest source of potent nutrients for a healthy gut. Include more of them in your diet by taking advantage of a fresh produce delivery service like Farmbox Direct. Beans and legumes like chickpeas or lentils are also worth adding to your plate as they are full of fiber that help push things along the digestion train. And aside from fruits, veggies, and legumes, fermented foods are going to be your best friend when improving your gut health. Kimchi, sauerkraut, and tempeh all contain the “good” bacteria we want for a healthy digestive tract.
They say that our gut is quite literally our “second brain.” You know those moments where you’ve had a gut feeling about something, and then it turns out, you were right? Those intuitive experiences are proof of all the potential power the belly stores. Imagine what awaits in one that is healthy and balanced!