The human body is truly a wondrous thing – scientists, doctors and researchers are still making major discoveries all the time, constantly improving our understanding about how it functions.
It’s complicated – and the gut turns out to be one of the most complicated functions – which is why it’s good to have a digestive health naturopath in your back pocket.
Why Is Your Gut Important?
Although doctors once thought it was merely a food processing organ, it turns out your gut has an impact on numerous other systems, including the immune system and autoimmune diseases, mental health and mood, skin conditions, endocrine disorders and even cancer.
Your gut microbiome is where all the magic happens: it’s where 300 to 500 different species of bacteria live, all throughout your gastrointestinal system.
Some of these bacteria aren’t friendly; most – however – are not just beneficial, they are necessary.
How To Tell If Your Gut Is Unhealthy
If it’s that important, it should be cared for carefully and kept under a watchful eye for signs of strength or distress.
Here are some ways you can tell if you might have an unhealthy biome.
1. You Eat A Lot Of Sugar
Sugar has been linked as the most dangerous factor causing cancer, possibly because of the inflammation it causes.
Processed foods and added sugars reduce the good bacteria in your biome, and this imbalance can, in turn, lead to increased sugar cravings.
In the end, you need only remember that sugar is hazardous to good bacteria, and that bacteria is a huge part of what’s keeping you healthy.
2. You’re Having Trouble Sleeping
People often wonder why they’re experiencing poor sleep, chronic fatigue or even insomnia, and they rarely consider their gut in answering that question.
However, serotonin is manufactured in the gut, and it’s responsible for mood and sleep – so a healthy gut will absolutely predispose you to a good sleep.
3. You’re Gaining Or Losing Weight Unexpectedly
If you’ve noticed a change in your weight that can’t be attributed to a change in either exercise routine or diet, then you may have a gut issue.
If you’re losing weight, it could be caused by SIBO, which stands for “small intestinal bacterial overgrowth”.
If you’re gaining weight, it might be due to insulin resistance – this is when your body isn’t absorbing the nutrients from your food properly, and it causes you to want to overeat to try to replace them.
4. You Have Eczema
Skin conditions such as eczema are often a sign of damage to the gut.
This could be caused by inflammation: poor diet or food allergies that irritate the skin.
5. You Have An Autoimmune Condition
Autoimmune conditions are being studied from a perspective of gut health, and researchers have been successful in finding evidence that they are interconnected.
We’ve talked about inflammation caused by poor gut health, and this inflammation can alter how your immune system works, causing the body to attack itself instead of the actual harmful stuff.
How To Improve Your Gut Health
Improving your gut health doesn’t have to be overly complicated, but it does require some lifestyle changes.
1. Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
Most importantly, start by cutting out sugars and also artificial sweeteners .
These often hide in processed foods, not just desserts or candy, so make sure you keep an eye on your food labels.
2. Breastfeed Your Baby
One of the many benefits a breastfed baby will enjoy is a solid foundation to a healthy gut biome.
Their microbiota don’t start to actually develop until after they are out of the womb, and formula has altered microbiota in it, meaning the infants develop the beneficial Bifidobacteria poorly.
From this perspective, it’s never too long to breastfeed, as well: their biome is developing continually for the first two years of their life, so any amount of breast milk will help.
Here’s why it’s great for them: breastfeeding has been linked with a reduction in allergies, obesity, and other diseases whose foundation is gut bacteria.
3. Eat A Diverse, Plant-Based Diet
It probably won’t surprise you at all to learn that animal-based diets or foods result in different intestinal bacteria than vegetarian or vegan foods.
One of the reasons so many people move to plant-based diets is because of the amazing physical results they enjoy – vegetarian diets have been proven to
benefit your gut biome, while cooked meats can actually cause disease.
Studies show that the vegetarian diet helps reduce inflammation, cholesterol and weight; it also leads to reduced levels of disease-causing bacteria.
4. Eat Prebiotic and Probiotic Foods
Prebiotics and probiotics are different things: probiotics are the live bacteria that you ingest through food, while prebiotics are the foods that you eat that are also food to beneficial gut bacteria, allowing them to thrive.
By eating these foods or taking supplements, you can improve your gut health, but if you go with supplements, be sure to do your research, because not all are as effective.
Also, folks with bacterial overgrowth should not take probiotics.
This is why it’s easiest to simply consume them: kimchi, kombucha, natto, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut or others.
5. Pay Attention To Your Lifestyle
Lifestyle is the more complicated of the changes needed for gut health, but it’s an extremely impactful one.
Even though gut health can impact sleep, it needs that very same sleep to stay in balance, so try to figure out a way to get enough rest.
Chronic stress is very hard on your gut, even though you may feel it more predominantly in another area of your body (shoulders, back, neck, head).
Lower stress by walking, meditation, social time with family, or decreasing your caffeine intake.
Contact The Mindful Healing Clinic
We acknowledge that gut health is a very complicated issue, and it’s why we’re subject matter experts in this – because so many of our clients come to us for help with it.
Call now to book your consultation with The Mindful Healing Clinic, and we’ll have a look at your lifestyle, your diet, and we’ll tailor a plan specifically around what works best for you.
Until next time,
Dr. Maria Cavallazzi is a medical doctor from Colombia where she practiced as a family physician for 8 years until she moved to Canada 16 years ago and became a naturopathic doctor in Mississauga.