Your gut affects everything from your mood to your digestion — and even your hormones. Getting your gut health on track is vital for maintaining optimal health, and is a great place to begin (or continue) your health journey. We’re here to help, with advice and tips for improving your gut health including some totally achievable lifestyle changes.
First, let's talk about what to look for in order to determine if you currently have an unhealthy gut, how your gut microbiome affects your body and mind, and ways to improve your gut bacteria.
Common Signs of an Unhealthy Gut
If your tummy rumbles more than it should or you feel exhausted after eating certain foods, your gut microbiome could be to blame. Your gut microbiome is impacted by everything you do, from the supplements and medications you take to the food you eat. Your gut microbiome needs to have a balance of healthy gut bacteria, and when it doesn't, you may notice some of the following symptoms:
Signs of an upset stomach, such as being gassy, bloated, constipated, having diarrhea, and/or experiencing heartburn, are likely due to an unbalanced gut microbiome. An unhealthy gut means you’re not expelling waste or digesting the nutrients in your foods properly.
An unhealthy gut also hinders your system's ability to properly store fat, regulate your blood sugar, and absorb essential nutrients. As a result, unintentional weight loss or gain may occur. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) might be responsible for weight loss, while insulin resistance or overeating urges can be a cause for weight gain.1
Eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis) is just one of the many skin conditions reported by people with gut issues.2 Food sensitivities and/or a poor diet can cause inflammation in the gut. Because of this, certain proteins are "leaked" into the bloodstream, triggering allergic reactions, which can cause an array of skin irritations from acne to rashes.
Food sensitivities are widely associated with poor gut health. Often, people don't know they have food sensitivities. Doing an elimination diet with a nutritionist guided you along the way can be an effective way to pinpoint which foods are messing with your gut and in turn, trigger your symptoms.
Feeling chronically tired? Most of your serotonin (a hormone regulating sleep and mood) is produced in your gut and manufactured in the brain.3 Since serotonin helps you balance sleep and wakefulness, when it becomes imbalanced, restful, quality sleep suffers.
How Your Gut Affects Your Mind & Body
As we mentioned earlier, serotonin is produced in both your brain and gut. When you have insufficient amounts of serotonin, your body and mind are impacted. This hormone allows your brain cells to communicate with cells in other parts of your nervous system.4
Mentally, you might experience:
- Bipolar depression
- Suicidal ideation
Physically, you can experience:
- Chronic fatigue
- Sleep disorders (including insomnia)
- Physical and/or mental agitation
5 Things You Can Do Today to Improve Gut Health
1. Lower Your Stress Levels
Reducing stress is key to balancing your gut. Stress contributes to weakening your intestinal barrier, leading to tears in your gut.5 Reduce your stress by identifying triggers and cutting back on stressors as much as possible; then, allow your body time to heal.
There are many things you can implement into your schedule to start working toward a less stressful life! Some examples include exercising regularly, journaling, spending time with the people you love (or simply just hopping on a call), taking a bath before bed, and controlling your screen time. The list goes on and on...
2. Get More Sleep
Poor quality sleep can impact your gut microbiome. One recent study from Nova Southeastern University shows a connection between poor sleep quality and imbalanced gut microbiomes.6
Creating a bedtime routine allowing for about eight hours of sleep per night can help your body repair itself, reduce stress levels, and even decrease inflammation in the body. Try to lower your caffeine intake during the day, exercise in the mornings rather than at night, read before bed, disconnect from screens 30 minutes prior to bedtime and meditate to calm your mind.
3. Try a Detox
Toxins enter our bodies every day; we can't avoid them. However, we can try to detox from some of them. Cutting down on processed and especially high sugar foods is a great way to start cleansing and healing your gut.7 Sugar has been shown to create inflammation, so lessening your intake could help balance your gut flora.
4. Stay Hydrated
We will always advocate for drinking more water! Staying hydrated keeps vital organs functioning at optimal levels. Water is a building block for new cells, so the more hydrated you are, the more your body can generate healthy cells to keep your digestive tract functioning. Getting hydrated takes commitment and routine but believe us, your gut will be forever thankful for this change!
5. Get Checked for Food Intolerance
You might be part of the estimated 2-20 percent of people worldwide who have food sensitivities.8 A nutritionist or dietician can guide you through an elimination diet, which removes foods from your diet at planned intervals and focuses on keeping in foods not creating adverse reactions. After you've cleansed, you systematically add foods back in and see which ones you react to.
Your gut has a lot to tell you. Are you listening? Start getting your digestive tract on track by hydrating your body and incorporating the best foods for supporting good gut health. Get those cells energized and your brain feeling rejuvenated! When your gut is healthy, your mind and body both benefit.