Each part of the body plays a significant role in how we function on a physical, mental and spiritual level. We hear aabout brains and hearts for instance. “Think with your brain,” and “Love with your heart” are common phrases we all know and perhaps say regularly. Sayings surrounding the gut are also common, but do you know why?
You’ve surely heard the phrase, “I’ve got a gut feeling” before, and undoubtedly there’s been a time in your life when nervousness has caused the sensation of butterflies in your stomach. This is because your gut, much like your brain, can affect your mood. Because of this, your overall wellbeing depends on treating it properly.
What Is Your Gut?
The “gut” is your gastrointestinal tract, which is a long tube that begins at the mouth and ends at the anus. In charge of digestion, the gut is also home to the body’s second brain, known as the enteric nervous system. The ENS is complete with a matching number of nerve cells as the spinal cord in its entirety, and also like the brain, it both sends as well as receives nerve impulses, documents happenings that affect the body, and even reciprocates to emotional cues.
How The Gut Rules
While we used to believe that the brain worked to tell the ENS what to do, recent evidence has suggested that the gut is doing the majority of the outreach to keep the communication with the brain strong. In other words, the brain doesn’t just notice the bacteria of the gut, but it can actually have an impact on how we view our surroundings, and even on our mood.
This is why it is so important that your gut flora is as healthy as can be. But how can you know? There are a variety of indicators that can help you to understand if you need to be treating it better.
How To Know If Your Gut Needs A Health Boost
There are a variety of ways to tell if your gut health is not optimum. Here are four of the biggest ones:
1. Digestive issues such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, heartburn/acid reflux
This is probably the most apparent one, but before you reach for pills to alleviate the symptoms, consider getting to the root of the problem first, as these symptoms could be trying to inform you that your gut health is out of whack. The gut bacteria naturally produces gas, but when it becomes too excessive, it could be the result of the gut lacking proper acid needed to break down protein, since, when this happens, it ferments and decays.
2. A vitamin deficiency
In order for your digestive system to function properly, it needs the essential vitamins A, C, D and B. In most cases, you can simply get them through your diet. Find out which foods will give you the best source of each one, and perhaps you’ll quickly be able to pinpoint what you’re deficient in.
3. Mental health issues like anxiety, depression, mood swings, OCD
Because the gut microbiota has an impact on the body’s level of serotonin, your mental health can be at risk when your health is not at its best.
4. Skin conditions like acne, eczema, and rosacea
It’s easy for us to play off skin conditions as something we just have to live with or get through during a period of our lives, but truly, our bodies work diligently to inform us that something’s up. There have been many studies linking gut health to skin issues, and as far back as 1930, there has been evidence linking how the health of the gut, the brain, and the skin are all related.
What You Can Do To Improve Your Gut Health
In order to maintain the correct balance of bacteria in your digestive tract, you’ll want to follow through with some things:
1. Avoid toxins
Because bad bacteria thrives on sugar, you’ll want to be mindful of your food choices. Steer clear of refined sugars and high fructose corn syrup. You should also limit your consumption of starches, and you should be mindful of how you prepare your grains (think: soaking, sprouting, and fermenting).
2. Eliminate unhealthy oils
Because overconsumption of Omega-6 fatty acids can trigger inflammation and other digestive issues, a good place to start is avoiding yellow seed-based oils such as corn oil, soybean oil, vegetable oil, and canola oil.
3. Stay away from trans fats
Studies have found a link between gut diseases and trans fats, so avoid partially-hydrogenated oils and foods fried in the unhealthy oils discussed above.
4. Consume fermented foods
Aside from warding off bad bacteria, it’s important to promote good gut bacteria as well. This means incorporating fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, lacto-fermented fruits and vegetables, and non-pasteurized yogurt, cheese, and kefir into your diet.
5. Manage your stress
Long ago, Hippocrates said “all diseases begin in the gut,” and stress has been found to wreak havoc here. One study published in the Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology found that stress causes negative effects on intestinal microflora, changes in gastrointestinal secretion, an increase in visceral perception, and more. And Harvard researchers noted that, “Psychology combines with physical factors to cause pain and other bowel symptoms. Psychosocial factors influence the actual physiology of the gut, as well as symptoms. In other words, stress (or depression or other psychological factors) can affect movement and contractions of the GI tract, cause inflammation, or make you more susceptible to infection.”