A quick guide to gut health
“Listen to your gut.” It’s common advice. Usually, it suggests there’s value in your sense of intuition. But it’s practical, too. Even if you haven’t got a strong sense of intuition, your gut health probably has a lot to say.
Consider this post your crash course in gut health. You’ll learn:
- What the gut is
- Why gut health is so important
- What prebiotics and probiotics have to do with it all
- How to help heal your gut microbiome
Let’s get into it:
What is “the gut”?
The gut’s not just your stomach! It includes your stomach, but the term “gut” covers the whole gastrointestinal tract (GI), from entrance to exit. This includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine.
It has three main jobs: digestion, nutrient absorption, and waste elimination.
What is gut health and why does it matter?
To put it simply, a healthy gut has an optimal balance of good and bad bacteria. A healthy gut will digest food, absorb nutrients, and keep everything moving at the right speed through your GI tract.
Problems with your gut can include concerns that are obviously digestion-related, like heartburn, gas, bloating constipation, etc. But there are some sneakier signs of an unhealthy gut.
3 conditions commonly linked to poor gut health
- Sleep problems and fatigue
- Skin breakouts and allergies
- Autoimmune disorders
Here’s why gut health is so important: Your gut is how your body delivers the critical nutrients you get from food. It’s a huge part of your immune system. And your gut and brain are closely connected — this gut-brain connection means your gut health may also have a role in non-digestive functions like mood, stress, and mental clarity.
What should I know about prebiotics and probiotics?
Probiotics are good microorganisms, bacteria and yeast, specifically, that help keep your gut healthy. We often think of probiotics as the “good” bacteria that help balance out and fight off the “bad” bacteria.
You have probiotics in your gut already, but there are also two great ways to add probiotics to your diet to improve your gut health:
- Take a probiotic supplement. There are several great probiotic supplement options on the market. At Sona Pharmacy + Clinic, we carry Emergen-C Probiotics Plus Daily Immune as well as Rainbow Light Probiolicious Gummies.
- Eat more fermented foods. Specifically, you need fermented foods that are shown to have live microorganisms beneficial to human health. These include more than 20 species of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Accessible fermented foods that commonly contain these good bacteria or probiotics include:
- Yogurt and kefir
What about prebiotics?
Prebiotics are what those “good” bacteria eat: dietary fibers that nourish the healthy microorganisms in your gut. Focusing on probiotics for gut health isn’t enough. Are you feeding them prebiotics?
Common prebiotic-rich foods include bananas, asparagus, apples, barley, oats and flax.
Taken together, the “good” and “bad” bacteria, yeasts, viruses, and any other microorganisms living within your digestive tract are known as the “gut microbiome.”
How to help heal your gut microbiome
As with most aspects of your physical health, healthy lifestyle habits can make a huge impact. If you’ve been dealing with symptoms of an imbalanced gut microbiome, here are some science-backed ways to support it:
We already covered eating foods rich in probiotics and prebiotics, but there’s more. Besides for staying up on your fiber and fermented foods, it’s important to limit the following gut destroyers:
- Refined sugars — these can harm the balance of your microbiome by feeding the “bad” bacteria and starving the “good” ones.
- Red meat — research suggests excessive red meat consumption is associated with poor gut health.
- Refined grains — these act similarly to sugar, providing no nourishment to the gut’s important microbes.
- Alcohol — the inflammation caused by drinking too much alcohol alters your balance of microbes and leads to an unhealthy gut.
High sleep quality is associated with a healthier, more diverse gut microbiome! While the link between sleep and gut health isn’t completely understood, research does show that good sleep improves gut health, and good gut health improves sleep.
This one’s surprising, but research shows that exercise has the potential to alter your microbiome — regardless of diet. Research found that long workouts and high-intensity aerobic training improved gut bacteria diversity and function in study participants. So, get moving!
Ready to start putting together your plan for better gut health?
Head to your local grocery store to load up on gut-friendly foods, and get the supplements you need to support your diet here in our Gut Health Supplements collection.