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Gut health has been a popular buzz term in the wellness space for the past few years, but do you actually know what it means? Focusing on a healthy gut goes beyond grabbing the trendiest probiotic-infused food product. It can have a significant impact on how you feel and function, both today and for years to come.
What exactly is “gut health”?
Let’s break this down on a basic level. The gut is often referred to as the “second brain”. It contains millions of microbes (aka, bacteria) that impact various processes in the body: digestion, hormone production and immune function.
Did you know that approximately 70% of your immune system is found in your gut?!
The microbiome is made up of both good and bad bacteria. With a healthy balance of both, the body is able to work at its optimal capacity. However, when there is an imbalance of the microbial community, the body may produce negative symptoms, such as GI issues, unwarranted weight gain, fatigue, skin irritation, autoimmune conditions and food intolerances.
How can a healthy microbiome impact health?
As researchers find new ways that the microbiome positively impacts the body, it’s becoming even more clear why it’s important to focus on gut health.
A healthy gut can lead to:
One of the most recent study focuses is that of the gut-brain connection and its impact on anxiety and depression.
Now that we know why gut health is important, let’s discuss five ways to improve your gut microbiome.
Focus on fiber. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains all contain prebiotic fiber, which help feed the healthy bacteria in the gut.
Reduce artificial sweeteners. While these no calorie sweeteners may lead to weight loss, they can increase blood sugar and impair insulin response when consumed in large quantities.
Incorporate fermented foods and healthy fats. Fermented foods contain probiotics, a healthy form of bacteria, which improves overall gut health. Examples of fermented foods include: sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, miso, kombucha, tempeh and kimchi. Healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, salmon and olives, can also lead to greater diversity of bacteria in the gut.
Chew slowly. Have you ever rushed through a meal only to find your stomach expanding moments later? The digestive process begins the moment you put food in your mouth. Focus on thoroughly chewing your food by putting your fork down in between bites and successfully chewing and swallowing before going back for more.
Finds ways to de-stress. Stress can have a direct impact on the gut. Finding ways to decrease stress through outlets such as yoga, work boundaries, and breathing exercises can significantly improve your overall health.
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