This week, Caitlin highlights a topic near and dear to her heart, literally and figuratively – gut health. Read on to learn more about her learnings…
One topic we’ve heard readers bring up more and more over the past few years is the concept of “gut health.” I actually had this come up in one of my classes this semester, and the findings we shared with each other from both research and past experience were fascinating tidbits of information! Scientists through many disciplines are looking to this site in our body for causations and treatments for a number of alignments in the mind and body.
Balancing my gut health is an item I have attempted to focus on over the past two years whilst trying to address my own versions of psychopathology and physical discomforts. I changed my diet up a little, and noticed a difference within the first two weeks of implementing my selected probiotic (more on this below).
Ironically, this is also a topic that Jessica had listed on her resolution list for 2018. After my personal experiences, the amount that readers have asked about the topic, and Jessica’s resolution, we found it important to outline the importance of gut health, and how you can start to find your gut balance, too.
Why Gut Health is Important
Inside our gut, each one of us has a happy little colony of microorganisms. For some time we have recognized the gut as our power house. This area of the body is critical to our bodies functioning- it’s where our immunity stems from so that we can fight off illnesses and it is how we break down food to give us energy. We have even attributed the power of intuition to be from our gut in many patterns of speech, and for good reason! (Examples, “What is your gut telling you?” or “Go with your gut,” being phrases we often use over here at SST.)
Recently, science has begun to investigate and recognize the significant link between the microbiome of the gut and brain function. Many scientists and researchers believe that the gut may be linked to symptoms of various psychological pathologies, such as anxiety and depression to name a few.
So your gut health is not only responsible for much of the health in your body, but your mind, too.
What You Can Do to Improve Your Gut Health
There are a number of methods you can use to find what your gut health balance looks like personally, as each person’s gut “balance” is very individual and will not be the same as their neighbor. After doing some research, I’ve found several differing factors, both internally and externally, that can affect each of our gut balances independently. These various factors can greatly alter the method we should use to regain balance.
We talk about just a few of the methods below, but there are many options out there. It’s important to note (as we mentioned before) that every person’s gut is different, so doing your own research and finding the options that sound right for you, and you alone, will be a critical part of your gut balance journey.
What You Eat
It only makes sense that what you put into your gut has a lot to do with your gut’s balance. When trying to find your balance, it’s important to try your best to determine what the body considers to be a “friend” versus an “enemy”. Although we all have different contents of the microbiota in our guts, I’ve consistently found that those who are focusing on balancing their gut typically consider:
- Sugar to be an enemy
- Fruits and veggies to be their gut’s friend
This is for the simple reason of how our gut reacts to those foods.
Sugar, when broken down, feeds the bad bacteria in our gut, allowing that bacteria to take over. Bad things can happen to us when our bad bacteria is in control, especially causing strong negative effects on our bodies. We can experience a drop in immune function, as well as a drop in metabolic processing ability.
Fruits and veggies, on the other hand, give the good bacteria in our gut flora the fuel it needs to flourish!
Below are some types of foods that you might want to consider if gut health is a priority for you.
Probiotics are microorganisms that aid in the gastrointestinal processes of humans (and all animals, who knew?!)
There has been a recent surge in the food market relating to probiotics, and while talking about gut health, we found it important to note that not all probiotics are created equal. It is always a good idea to check the label of your foods for any additives that may be working against your gut.
(Editor’s note: One probiotic that I’ve been loving lately has been Good Day Chocolate. A delicious way to bring a sweet probiotic into my day.)
Pre-biotics are actually the foods that fuel our probiotics. Without these guys, your probiotics don’t perform their jobs at their highest level.
It’s important to know what foods to eat to feed your probiotics if you decide to try out these prebiotic-rich foods. Below is a great illustration that we love to use here at SST that shares which foods are considered rich in pre-biotics and will, therefore, healthfully fuel your system.
Possible Food Intolerances
One way to really piss off your gut balance is to eat something your body may be intolerable to – or, even worse, allergic to on any spectrum.
Some things to know about food intolerances:
- You may get other clues from your body outside of the gastrointestinal area that indicate your body may not be jiving with whatever you ate or drank.
- In my experience, excess (“excess” amounts will be different for every body) dairy was a clear source of gut imbalance for me. I talk a little bit more about this below.
- By removing (or seriously limiting, I still eat real milk ice cream and cheese – because it’s milk and cheese), I noticed a drastic improvement in how my body felt, specifically that my stomach problems dramatically decreases.
Are you eating food that loves your body back? If you think that you might have a food intolerance, then watch your intake of these foods specifically and see how your body responds. If your body feels more “funky” after enjoying one of the below more than others, then you may have a food intolerance.
- processed foods
- refined sugar
- artificial sweeteners
- greasy fried foods
- very spicy foods
- coffee, alcohol, carbonated drinks
This is probably on every list of ways to improve almost any symptom, but that’s because it works.
- The body can’t do its job the best it possibly could without being well hydrated.
- The gut balance will also be affected if the body is dehydrated, as well.
- Staying hydrated will also help your body to effectively and efficiently excrete any items in your body that may be influencing gut disruptions.
Limiting your exposure to pollutants can be a great contribution to finding gut balance. If you’re like me, and have just moved to an area where you’re unable to frequently get away from too much pollution, there are measures you can take to purify the air in your space, be it office or home. Here are a few of my personal favorite ways to keep the air clean in my home and office:
- Air Purifiers
- Oil Diffuser
- Incense Burning
Each of these will cleanse the air in your space and will help your overall system, including gut, stay in check.
Too Little Sleep
Sleep is how your body recuperates from a day full of activity and heals so can cleanse your entire system most optimally. As mentioned, that accounts for gut, which is the center of it all. Not getting the proper amount or kind of sleep can affect your gut balance and leave you feeling fatigued.
Try to stick to a solid 7-to-9 hour of sleep per night to allow your internal systems time to cleanse themselves and rejuvenate before jumping into the next day.
Stay connected to our journey! Follow our fun on Instagram as we adventure through 2018, including trips to South Korea, new puppies, and all the fun that this year has to offer!