19 Oct Could your gut be making you sick and overweight?
Our bodies are full of trillions of viruses, bacteria, and fungi. They are collectively referred to as the microbiome. Although some bacteria are associated with disease, some are very important to the heart, immune system, weight among other health aspects.
The gut microbiome
Gut microbiome refers to the microorganisms living in the intestines. Every human being has over 300 bacteria species in their digestive tract. While some of these microorganisms can be harmful, most of them are extremely important and necessary for a healthy body.
Several research studies have linked gut health to mental health, immune system, cancer, skin diseases, endocrine disorders, heart health, mood, and autoimmune diseases. Having several of these good bacteria in your digestive tract can help improve symptoms of depression, enhance your immune system, prevent obesity, reduce the risk of diabetes by controlling blood sugar, lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart diseases among other health benefits.
Signs of bad gut health
A good balance of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract is necessary for you to stay healthy. Here are the common signs of an unhealthy gut:
1. Uncomfortable stomach
Stomach disturbances such as nausea, gas, heartburn, bloating, constipation and diarrhea are classic symptoms of an unhealthy gut. Reflux, irritable and inflammatory bowel diseases have all been associated with an imbalance in the gut microbiome.
2. Craving for certain foods
Craving foods, especially processed and high-sugar foods can be a sign of an imbalance in your gut bacteria. A diet high in added sugars and processed can reduce the number of good bacteria in your digestive tract. This results to an imbalance in your gut bacteria which increases sugar cravings, and this can harm the gut further. Increased amounts of refined sugar in the body have been associated with increased inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a precursor for various diseases and even cancers.
3. Unmeant weight changes
Weight changes without altering your diet may be a sign of unhealthy gut. Certain gut bacteria can cause weight loss, especially if they are too many in the small intestines, a condition referred to as SIBO (small intestine bacteria overgrowth). These bacteria interfere with fat, vitamin and minerals absorption. Inability to properly absorb and digest fat leads to weight loss. Weight gain is caused by the ability of some bacteria to harvest more calories from foods compared others.
4. Poor sleep and constant fatigue
Lack of enough serotonin can result in insomnia or difficulty getting sleep which can lead to chronic fatigue. Symptoms of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue can be associated with gut bacteria imbalance too.
5. Feeling blue or anxious
About 80 percent of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects social behavior, mood, libido, sleep, appetite, and memory is produced in the gut. Lack of enough serotonin affects your mood negatively. Microbiome imbalance in the gut can also trigger depressive symptoms
6. Skin irritation
In case there is an imbalance of gut bacteria, eczema and skin rashes can develop. Eczema is a chronic condition characterized by inflamed and red itchy blotches on the skin.
7. Autoimmune conditions
Autoimmune diseases, diseases affecting the immune system, can also indicate gut microbiome imbalance. Unhealthy gut increases systemic inflammation which hinders the immune system from functioning properly.
8. Food Intolerances
Food intolerances are caused by difficulty in digesting food. Poor quality of state bacteria in the digestive tract causes food intolerance. This leads to problems in digesting trigger foods and unpleasant symptoms such as bloating nausea, abdominal pain, gas, and diarrhea.
How to improve your gut health
There are several ways to improve your gut health including:
1. Check your diet
The first step to improving your gut microbiome is eating right. In fact, eating the right food can enhance your gut bacteria in less than 24 hours. For better gut health it is necessary to cut out unhealthy fats, high-sugar, and processed foods. The following diets can positively impact your gut health:
Foods with high fiber content have been proven to positively impact gut health by stimulating bifidobacteria, limiting the growth of harmful bacteria. Such foods include legumes, oats, beans, apples, and chicken peas.
Prebiotics are a type of a non-digestible fiber. Prebiotics are particularly important to obese people as they reduce cholesterol and insulin levels, consequently reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Prebiotics are contained in foods such as banana, leek, garlic, and asparagus, but they can also be bought as supplements.
Probiotics have been found to impact gut health positively. They are contained in foods such as yoghurt and fermented foods, but they can also be bought as a supplement. However, you should discuss with your doctor to find the right supplement for you because different probiotic supplements affect gut health differently.
Eat more vegetables
Several research studies have indicated that vegetables are good for the microbiome. Results have shown vegetarian diets reduces the level of disease-causing bacteria.
2. Get adequate sleep
Lack of enough sleep affects your health negatively. Ensure you get adequate sleep (between 7 and 9 hours for adults).
3. Reduce your stress levels
Persistent high levels of stress affect your general body health negatively, including gut health. Some ways of reducing stress levels include yoga, massage, meditation, spending time with family and friends among others.
4. Drink wisely
Alcohol can negatively impact your gut health. Reduce your overall alcohol consumption. Also, remember to drink water regularly.
The bottom line
Gut health is crucial to your general body health and more complex than you probably thought. A healthy gut positively impacts the immune system, heart health, mental health and even prevents certain cancers. Altering your lifestyle can help improve your gut health and your overall health will consequently be boosted.
In our weight and age management programs, a good multi-strain probiotic is recommended to all of our patients in addition to a high fiber and healthy fats diet. This approach has helped me and thousands of my patients reach and maintain their healthy weight, while optimizing their energy, overall health, and wellbeing.