So what exactly is the gut? The gut is your entire intestinal tract and has a huge impact on your overall health. It is often said that your gut is your second brain and is interconnected with your other brain. Poor digestive health can therefore lead to a number of issues such as a bad mood or several neurological disorders. While in the other direction, issues such as stress can cause tummy upsets as well. This shows how the two brains are closely intertwined and taking care of your gut means taking care of your body as a whole.
Experts also claim that 70% of your immunity is located within the gut wall. This makes a healthy digestive tract essential when it comes to boosting your immunity. Our gut is an ecosystem of bacteria and yeast, some good and some bad. When the gut is healthy and balanced the beneficial bacteria in the gut keep yeast growth at bay. An imbalance, however, can lead to a number of digestive disorders.
So how do we keep the gut healthy? There’s several things we can do to maintain a right balance of bacteria in the gut:
1. Eat 30 different plants every week
This was one of the biggest take aways from the world’s largest microbiome study: eat at least 30 different plants every week for optimal gut diversity. Gut diversity on the other hand has been linked to many health benefits. When we say plants we don’t just mean fruits and veggies, but also nuts, seeds, legumes and grains. Please stop counting calories and start counting colours and plants.
2. Eat prebiotic and probiotic foods
There’s two ways to maintain a balance in the gut; first by helping the good microbes that are already there to grow by feeding them the foods they like (prebiotics) and second by adding living microbes to your system (probiotics). Prebiotics are found in plants that contain complex carbohydrates that can’t be digested by the body such as asparagus, artichokes, chickpeas, leeks, garlic and more. Probiotics contain live organisms and add to the population of healthy microbes, they are found in sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha or in supplements.
3. Stay hydrated
Dehydration is one of the most common reasons behind constipation and stools sitting around in your large intestine are not creating a welcome environment for beneficial gut microbes. Drinking a minimum of 1,5 litres of water every days is vital to a hydrated and healthy gut. This does not mean just plain water, tea, soups and infused waters can also be added to this.
4. Reduce stress and increase sleep
We previously mentioned the connection between our two brains and that stress can affect your gut health. Stress and a lack of sleep are putting your body into a fight-or-flight mode, which reduces the blood flow to your intestines. Your digestion will slow down and gut sensitivities kick in. Ways to reduce stress and increase your sleep are meditation, yoga, moderate exercise, less screen time and a diverse and healthy diet.
5. Eat natural plant foods over processed foods
Just as plant foods are feeding the good bacteria in your gut, processed foods full of additives, trans fats and sugar are feeding the bad bacteria, creating an imbalance in the gut. This can lead to serious issues such as inflammation, intolerances, weakened immunity, allergies and more. So always try to choose plant foods over processed foods. Wondering what we mean when we say processed foods? Anything that does not grow immediately from the earth or any packaged food that contain a long list of ingredients, some of which we can’t even pronounce.
6. Get in some moderate exercise
A 2019 study found a link between exercise and bacterial diversity in the gut. You gut likes it when you move! It is however also important to give your body enough rest, because when your workout schedule becomes too intense it can actually harm your body and damage your microbiome.
As you can see, the gut is vital to our overall health and taking care of it is very important. Eat more veggies, drink more water, sleep 8 hours and exercise regularly. It isn’t really rocket science, it isn’t really new information, but the importance of a healthy lifestyle should never be underestimated.