Gut Health 101
Your intro to why your gut health matters
You would have often come across this ancient adage: “All disease begins in the gut”. This was first suggested by Hippocrates — the father of modern medicine — more than 2,000 years ago.
Although not all diseases, but many can possibly begin as a result of an unhealthy gut because 70% of your immune system resides in your gut. There is a growing emphasis on the importance of maintaining gut health not just for a healthy digestion, but for a stronger immunity, healthier heart, and better mental well-being. So, it is not an overstatement that the secret to a healthy body lies in a healthy gut.
But firstly, let’s get introduced to the 3 basic functions of our gastrointestinal (GI) system.
1. Digestion — Breakdown of food into simple and absorbable chemical form with the help of digestive enzymes.
2. Absorption –Intake of the nutrients (from digested food) into the blood.
3. Elimination — Removal of undigested and unabsorbed food waste from the body.
Importance of Gut Health
1. For a well-nourished and energetic body
You could be eating the healthiest of meals but it would all be a waste if you don’t have a healthy gut to efficiently perform its functions. An unhealthy gut can cause nutritional deficiencies because of improper digestion and poor absorption, which may eventually lead to overall health problems like inflammatory diseases, hormonal imbalances, fatigue, and anxiety.
2. For immunity to fight diseases
The health of the gut is mainly influenced by the presence of friendly bacteria present in it. These bacteria help in digestion by producing some enzymes that break down food particles. Some bacteria in your gut can also synthesise essential nutrients like vitamins K and B12. These good bacteria also fight off the harmful bacteria that cause infectious diseases. They have an important role in regulating a major part of your immune system and preventing autoimmune disorders.
3. For a healthy brain and happier mood
Your gut has an important connection with your brain, and this is called the gut–brain axis. Gut bacteria produce hundreds of neurochemicals that your brain uses for mental processes like learning, memory, and mood. For example, the neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA, which are manufactured by gut bacteria, help control feelings of anxiety, fear, and depression.
What Can YOU Do To Maintain a Healthy Gut?
1. Eat natural probiotics — Frequent use of antibiotics and processed food can sometimes kill good bacteria that live in your gut, creating an imbalance that affects our health. Probiotics are live and active ‘good bacteria’ that are found in some food products and can be included in your diet to replenish gut bacteria. Some good sources of probiotics are yoghurt, fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, pickles, and fermented sourdough bread.
2. Include natural fibre in your diet — Fibre present in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains acts as a prebiotic. Prebiotics are a form of dietary fibre that cannot be digested by your body but are fermented by bacteria present in your gut. They promote the growth of good bacteria by providing them nutrition. Some good sources of prebiotics are garlic, onion, asparagus, and green unripe bananas. Fibre also ensures the smooth movement of food through the gut and prevents constipation.
3. Avoid processed food — Processed food contains additives like artificial sweeteners, preservatives, colours, and emulsifiers that can have a negative effect on the good bacteria in the gut. Frequent consumption of processed food containing unhealthy fats and inadequate fibre can trigger conditions like inflammatory bowel disease and colitis.
4. Consume herbs for digestion — Some herbs like ginger, cinnamon, fennel, cumin, turmeric, licorice root, chamomile, and rosemary contain digestive enzymes that can aid in digestion. These herbs can be either added as ingredients while cooking food or taken as decoction teas after meals.
5. Keep mental stress at bay — The gut–brain axis enables a constant interaction of our brain’s activity with the gut bacteria. Several scientific studies have proven that chronic stress alters gut microbiota diversity by increasing harmful bacteria and reducing good bacteria.
6. Get your body moving — Staying physically active throughout the day stimulates the gastrointestinal muscles, which enables a smooth passage of food that leads to better digestion. Regular exercise has also been proven to have a positive impact on gut microbiota.
7. Eat food mindfully — Mindful eating involves attentively eating food without any haste and distraction. This helps you chew your food well, which makes its digestion easier and also prevents you from overeating. This simple habit can have a dramatic impact in improving gut health.
Remember, the only person who can keep YOU the healthiest is YOU.
DISCLAIMER: Dr. YOU aims to bring you the latest evidence-based science, and our content is for informational purposes only. The content is not medical advice or guarantee of an outcome. You should always consult a doctor or qualified healthcare professional if you need further clarification and before making any changes to your treatment plans and lifestyle, or that of others.
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