There are several fad diets out there that have been touted for their positive impacts to lose weight and help you feel better, but what would you say if I told you that you don’t have to suffer through keto to have great impacts on your body? One of the biggest things that the average American neglects in their day-to-day diet is gut health. If left unregulated, gut health can wreak havoc on your weight and your overall health and well-being. This article will go over the ins and outs, why you should focus on gut health and how a few minor changes in your diet can go a long way!
What is Gut Health and Why does it Matter?
In short, gut health refers to how efficient the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract is. Believe it or not, everyone has naturally growing bacteria in our bodies that help us digest our food. This natural bacterium is good and allows our esophagus, stomach, and intestines to all work together and digest the food we eat with no discomfort.
Sadly, this is not the case for about 70 million Americans across the United States! According to aboutibs.org, irritable bowl syndrome plagues between 25 and 45 million people in just the United States alone, with 2 in 3 IBS suffers being female. This is a startling number but can be addressed with just a few minor tweaks to your diet.
Ultimately, all food that is consumed must go to the gut to be broken down and to deliver nutrients to our bodies. A gut that is unhealthy will limit the effects of healthy bacteria, which will result in increased potential for infectious diseases, IBS, and a decrease in overall general health and well-being.
Causes for an unhealthy gut
A common misconception is that gut health is only impacted by a poor diet. While a diet consisting of heavily processed, high trans fatty acid, and high-sugar foods will have detrimental effects on the overall health of your gastrointestinal tract, that is not the sole culprit. Your overall way of life also affects your gut health. High stress and poor sleep have been linked to poor gut health.
Minor tweaks to your day can also have large affects in improving your way of life and bettering your gut health. Do what makes you feel good. Take some time to rest from your busy schedule.
Understanding that things will happen in life, and stress can sometimes be unavoidable. Try your best to not worry about what you can not control. 10 minutes of “me” time can go along way in reducing stress. Take some time to meditate and calm your mind, focus on your breathing and be free from thoughts and worries.
In the same regard, sometimes a full night’s sleep may not be possible but still essential for your body to recover. Try your best to set the conditions to get the best possible sleep you can in the time allotted. Play some white noise, lower the thermostat a tad, try to make the room as dark as possible. These minor tweaks have been proven to increase the amount of deep sleep a person gets per night.
Negative effects of an unhealthy gut
An unhealthy gut has been linked to negative effects on the brain, heart, immune system, skin, weight regulation, hormone levels, and the ability to absorb nutrients. Studies have also proven that poor gut health may lead to the development of Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and IBS as previously stated. The longer you ignore your gut health, the more of an increased chance you have at collecting bad bacteria build up in your body and contracting any number of these negative side effects.
How to identify an unhealthy gut
Now that we know what gut health is and some of its negative side effects if not addressed, how do you determine if your gut is healthy? Some of the most common signs of an unhealthy gut are:
- Upset stomach. Are you gassy? Have you been experiencing abdominal pain, bloating or loose stool? If these symptoms persist, it may be a sign of a larger problem and you should contact your doctor.
- Are you experiencing unintended weight fluctuation? Have you either gained weight or lost weight without changing anything in your daily routine or training plan? An unhealthy gut will not be able to properly absorb the nutrients in the food that you consume. This can in turn lead to some individuals overeating due to cravings from the body for nutrients that you are not getting.
- Have you been having trouble sleeping? Do you lay in bed for hours on end or are you constantly tired? A vast majority of the body’s naturally produced serotonin is made in the gut. An unhealthy gut will lead to poor sleep and fatigue.
- Food intolerances. As a result of your body not being able to properly digest and absorb nutrients, you may begin to experience your body rejecting certain foods that you once had no issues digesting. This can result in you experiencing bloating, gas, diarrhea, and nausea.
How to improve your gut health:
The easiest way to improve your gut health is to change your diet, to eat the right foods. In addition to improving your sleep and managing your stress, eating the right foods can go a long way in improving your gut health. What does eating the right foods mean? Eat a wide variety of foods. By a wide variety of foods, I mean nutrient-rich foods that force your gut to create different bacteria to absorb the nutrients.
One of the largest issues in the average American diet is that it is not very diverse in that is heavy in both fats and sugars. Some of the best groups of food that you should be consuming for your gut health are vegetables, legumes, beans, and fruit. Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber which helps your body generate more beneficial gut bacteria.
Four foods that promote gut health
- Asparagus does more than just make your pee smell potent; it is also jam packed with fiber! This digestible fiber helps produce more of the healthy bacteria that your body needs to digest your food and absorb nutrients to keep fueling you throughout the day.
- Pineapples play a large role in assisting with digestion in that they help your body break down large proteins. Not only do pineapples taste great on their own, they also go well in smoothies and for the few of you out there like me, make a great topping on pizza!
- Garlic. If you are like me, you put garlic on everything! Garlic is also considered a superfood and is loaded with nutritional value. Garlic provides the body with fiber, manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, selenium, and allicin. Allicin is a powerful immunity nutrient created once garlic is chopped or crushed. Add garlic as a seasoning to elevate the flavor of any dish while also increasing your gut health!
- Apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is a digestive powerhouse. It helps the body break down food by increasing stomach acid production. It is also very easy to incorporate into your diet. It can be added to help salad dressing, used to help produce sauces for your meal or even added to 8 oz of water to help boost your body’s metabolism and increase your digestion throughout the day.
Gut health, while sometimes left unaddressed, should be considered in our day-to-day lives. By making these quick easy changes to your everyday routine you can have a great impact on improving your overall well-being, increasing your quality of sleep, and improving your overall mood!