You’ve probably heard a lot about gut health and this is a trend that is here to stay!
Imagine going on a road trip and not filling up for gas.
You wouldn’t go road-tripping without fuel right? Our gut is the fuel tank of our bodies. Filling that tank, or feeding our gut, gives us the energy for all the other parts of our body. This fuel tank does need to be filled often so you don’t want to go a day without thinking about gut health.
But what exactly is gut health?
You know how you go to a bbq and have that chicken, corn on the cob and macaroni salad. But then later that night the bbq sauce on the chicken gives you heartburn or maybe the mayo in that macaroni salad had you running to the bathroom or maybe you see pieces of that corn the next day in your poop? That is gut health in all its glory. Gut health refers to your digestion from start to end.
But, gut health is also more than just digestion. It also refers to something called the microbiome. Have you ever noticed after you take an antibiotic that your stomach gets a little screwed up after? Our gut’s microbiome does get thrown off a bit when we take antibiotics. You might notice after you take a round of antibiotics you get diarrhea, a little gassy and/or stomach cramps. What happens when we take antibiotics is it kills the bad bacteria making us sick but also takes out the good bacteria that naturally live in our gut. This imbalance is what contributes to those stomach symptoms.
Improving gut health doesn’t have to be hard.
It gets so overwhelming when you think of all the info about nutrition. Do this, do that, don’t do this.
Focusing on gut health helps you cut through the noise, gives you a focus and makes you feel like a champion.
Focus on these 3 things.
Sleep: You do want to get in your 8 hours but it’s more than just quantity. It is also about the quality of your sleep. Good quality sleep that leaves you feeling rested is a core component of gut health. When we don’t get enough sleep this can lead to cravings that have us reaching for food that doesn’t always agree with our stomach. There is also emerging research on how sleep affects our gut microbiome.
Stress: When you are stressed it shunts blood away from your digestive system so how you feel mentally impacts your gut physically. If you had a dollar for every time someone told you to just be less stressed you would be rich. But no matter how cliche it sounds stress is probably a huge factor we don’t give enough credit to. One trend I see often see is not realizing how stressed we really so it can make it feel as if symptoms like constipation, eating food and running to the bathroom, or overall digestive discomfort comes out of nowhere.
Eating the rainbow: And I’m not talking about skittles. Getting variety is huge not just for gut health but for overall health. Different colors equal different vitamins and you want to have all of them. Kale is great but there is no such thing as a perfect food so you want to eat all the colors of the rainbow.
See results fast.
We all like it when we can see results fast and when we work on gut health we can see results quickly. Two things that can improve quickly when we focus on gut health is bloating and pooping! I used to be so bloated, my stomach would feel like a balloon about to pop. When I started really working on my gut that balloon deflated real fast. If you remember the post I did about pooping then you will know it is something we want to do every day. Checking our poop to see if its a healthy-looking one is a great way to see the benefits of your gut health work!
We get the most bang for our buck when we focus on gut health.
When we work on our gut we work on so many different areas of our body. It becomes a domino effect and we can start to see other parts of our health improve.
Other things that can be improved when you work on gut health…
Mood: Anxiety and brain fog. Two things that have been improved while working on gut health. Neurotransmitters, or chemicals that send messages to our brain, are made in the gut. For example, serotonin is a feel-good neurotransmitter and this is made primarily in the gut so the balance of bacteria in our microbiome can influence mood.
Environmental Allergies: I’ve had a lot of clients tell me how their postnasal drip or their sneezing has greatly improved once we started working on their gut health. This might be one of my favorite benefits because when you have allergies to grass and dust you can’t just live in a bubble and call it a day.
Weight: There are two reasons why I see weight loss with improvement in gut health. If the weight is related to inflammation then someone might see a few pounds lost. Secondly, eating for gut health means a focus on fresh foods that aren’t ultra-processed. This is alone can be a huge factor.
Skin: There is often a huge improvement with skin concerns like eczema, dryness, and acne. The effect of our gut microbiome is showing an influence on our skin microbiome. This area of research is still developing but there is definitely a connection between skin and gut.
Bones: We all know we should have calcium for strong bones but that calcium isn’t very helpful without Vitamin K and that is made in our gut. Fermented foods, which are gut-friendly foods, are also a source of Vitamin K.
Gut health is here to stay! There are so many reasons to work on gut health. What is yours? Or what questions do you still have about gut health?
Amanda is a pizza loving registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in mindfulness and gut health. She quickly realized that gut health goes beyond the gut; it is also about honoring our gut feelings. She is the creator of The Mindful Gut™ which uses science and strategy to help people improve their gut health.