How healthy is your gut?
Have you ever thought that your food choices and lifestyle influences the population of bacteria in your body system, as well as your overall health status? Now it’s right about time to rethink the importance of a healthy gut.
What is your gut? Your gut is your intestinal tract and what goes on there plays an important role in your overall health and wellness. Poor digestive health can lead to mood disorders and other neurological and physiological disorders. Other than the gut being important to one’s mental and emotional health, gut digestion actually plays a key role in one’s natural immunity to diseases. The reason is this - the gut naturally isn’t sterile. It is an entire ecosystem of bacteria and yeast, some are beneficial while others are toxic. Around 100 billion bacteria cells are found present in the human body. Only 10% of the cells in the human body are human, the rest are microbial.
The totality of microorganisms that populate humans or other living beings can be called microbiome. Many different factors like eating more plant-based foods, eating less sugary foods and having an active lifestyle contribute to a healthy microbiome. Some factors can be influenced while others can’t. Each type of bacteria has a peculiar assignment to carry out in the proper functioning of the body system. Therefore, a wider bacterial diversity means there are more bacteria readily available to digest food and fight diseases or allergies. Our food choices and lifestyle greatly influence our bacteria population.
When your gut is unhealthy, it causes more than just stomach discomfort, gas, bloating, or diarrhoea because about 60 - 80% of our immune system is found in our gut and gut imbalances have been linked to hormonal imbalances, autoimmune diseases and other chronic health problems. Some signs of an unhealthy gut include: digestive issues like bloating, food sensitivities or allergies, anxiety, chronic fatigue, depression, irritability and mood swings, skin diseases like eczema, frequent Infections, poor memory and concentration, among others.
How to keep your gut healthy
A healthy gut can be achieved by maintaining the right balance of bacteria thriving in your digestive tract. This can be done by observing the following:
Avoid high consumption of sugar and starches - Bad bacteria thrive well in the presence of sugar. Sugar is one of their best feed of choice. It is advisable to eat less of refined sugars like table sugar or not eat them at all. Also, reduce the intake of foods high in carbohydrate or starch. Better choices are moderate portion servings of brown rice, sweet potatoes, whole grains, legumes.
Staying active: Studies have shown that people who exercise regularly have a healthier microbiome than those who are not active. Therefore, it is important to make exercise one of your priorities. If you regularly expose yourself to nature, your body is in contact with a wider diversity of bacteria.
Eating the right balance of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fats: The intake of too much of Omega-6 fatty acids can lead to inflammation and increase digestive problems. Elimination of some seed-based yellow cooking oils (corn oil, soybean oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, etc.) from your diet will go a long way. Begin cooking with oils like coconut or olive oil. Food naturally rich in Omega-3 fats like wild-caught fish is also advisable.
Avoid trans fats: Staying away from food that contains trans fats cannot be overemphasized. It is considered by many doctors to be the worst type of fat one can consume. Compared to other dietary fats, trans fat raises the LDL (bad cholesterol) and lowers the HDL (good cholesterol)in the human body. A diet loaded with trans fats increases one’s risk of heart disease and this is the leading killer disease of men and women. Most trans fats are formed through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil, which causes the oil to become solid at room temperature. Some meat and dairy products also naturally contain small amounts of these trans fats. They are basically in all sorts of foods - fried food, certain baked products/snacks,
creamer, margarine, refrigerated dough and even those that may be labelled “trans-fat free.” Reducing the intake of trans fat to the minimum level possible, may mean you avoiding food that contain or are fried with partially-hydrogenated oils like the usual French fries at your local fast food/restaurant.
When our gut is happy, we are also happy!