There has been lots of talk lately about the importance of listening to our gut. For some of us it’s almost impossible to ignore our gut. Our gut talks loud and clear to us on a regular basis, but not always in a nice way!!! Does this sound familiar?
Our gut guides our overall health and well-being, it’s like our control centre constantly ‘talking’ to our brain and other vital organs.
Research now shows how important diet and environmental factors are in modulating our gut microbiome. The good news is, we can improve the health of our gut by making a few changes to our diet and lifestyle. By eating unprocessed organic food, including foods that support gut health and including good quality probiotics (live beneficial bacteria) in our diet, we can begin to improve the balance of good and bad bacteria in our gut.
But it’s not only what we consume via food and drink that is upsetting the balance of gut microbiome. Non-dietary lifestyle factors can also have a damaging effect on the health of the gut.
Some contributing factors include:
- Chronic stress
- Severe gastro or travellers ’diarrhoea
- Traumatic life events
- Substance abuse
- Not being breast feed
- Being born by C-Section
- Using anti-microbial soaps, hand washes and body lotions
- Environmental Chemicals
- Chemicals, herbicides, and pesticides in food
- Chemicals in drinking water
- Antibiotics and medications
So, what are some of the signs our gut is not happy?
- Waking up feeling sluggish
- Annoying dull headaches
- Trouble falling asleep and staying asleep
- Brain fog – poor memory and concentration
- Digestive issues, bloating, gas and diarrhoea or constipation, acid reflux
- Food Allergies or sensitivities
- Skin problems
- Type two diabetes
- Autoimmune disease and suppressed immunity
- Sugar Cravings
- Anxiety and depression
- Mood swings, irritability
- Frequent infections
Chronic stress is an important contributing factor worth highlighting. So many people are working long hours with little or no down time. It’s almost as if we have reached a point where an eight-hour day is considered a luxury. Are you spending 10-12 hours or more a day sitting? Are you eating high caloric low nutrient dense foods? Are you getting little or no exercise, little or no sunshine and to top it off you go home and down several glasses of alcohol to wind down. Do you have poor quality sleep, you go to bed and your brain is still racing, and you wake up groggy, battle brain fog during the day, and the cycle continues.
Chronic stress has a profound impact on colonic motor activity via the gut brain axis which alters the microbiome profile, lowering beneficial bacteria in the gut. The gut-brain axis is bi-directional and regulated at a neural, hormonal, and immunological level and is vital for maintaining homeostasis.
So, how do we break this unhealthy cycle and improve the health of our gut therefore improving the overall health of our body and mind and relieve these debilitating symptoms?
- Eliminate processed foods and food toxins from your diet – eat seasonal foods free from pesticides and herbicides
- Start adding whole real foods, good fats, and therapeutic foods
- Add fermented foods to your diet – prebiotics and probiotics, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, and other fermented vegetables
- MOVE – start exercising
- Get some sunlight
- Get good quality sleep
- Include activities to help manage stress and quiet the mind
- Eliminate as many toxins from your environment as possible – cleaning products, toxic skin care products, hair care products
If this all seems a little overwhelming, start by making small changes. First and foremost, if you are a smoker – that needs to go!!!! That really is a no brainer, but I am assuming smokers are hardly going to be bothered reading a post on ‘gut health’.
For the rest of us, get rid of the crap from your diet. Stop buying ‘food like substances’ in packets and start by increasing your intake of fresh (if possible organic) fruit and vegetables and good quality proteins – meat, fish, chicken. I often tell my clients ‘if you want to buy food from a large supermarket, you can only shop from the outside isles’ this eliminates most of the packaged crap from their trolleys.
Include some quality probiotics in your diet – visit a local health food/whole food shop, they will be able to guide you. Move your butt more, even if that means just getting up from the computer every hour and walking to the photocopier, it’s a start, reducing time spent sedentary is so extremely important. Lastly find an activity you enjoy away from work and lock in time each day to do it!!! This might be with your family, friends or just ‘you time’, destressing your life and gaining some balance is vital to your long-term health.
Phillips, M. L. (2009). Gut Reaction: Environmental Effects on the Human Microbiota. Environmental Health Perspectives, 117(5), A198–A205.
Conlon, M. A., & Bird, A. R. (2015). The Impact of Diet and Lifestyle on Gut Microbiota and Human Health. Nutrients, 7(1), 17–44. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu7010017
Grenham, S., Clarke, G., Cryan, J. F., & Dinan, T. G. (2011). Brain–Gut–Microbe Communication in Health and Disease. Frontiers in Physiology, 2, 94.
Cyndi O’Meara – Changing Habits Changing Lives
Retrieved from URL https://changinghabits.com.au/gut-health/