That Good Gut Feeling

Today I would like to talk to you about your gut, and why taking care of your digestive system can be the single most important thing you do for your health. Scientists and nutritionists alike refer to the gut as the “Second Brain”. This is due to the importance it plays on our overall well being. The gut functions independently from the brain in a complex combination of sheaths and neurons lining the walls of the digestive tract, this is known as the enteric nervous system. Much of the job of this system is to deal with the daily tasks of breaking down food, absorbing nutrients and getting rid of the waste. However, this system does so, so much more, and its health is a direct reflection on our whole well-being.

Everyone has a microbiota (gut flora), which is unique to him or her. The microbiota is made up of both good and bad bacteria each having their own role and function. There are even more bacteria living inside your gut than there are human cells in the body (yes that means we are actually more bacteria than we are human.) Not to put too fine a point on it but maintaining this balance becomes paramount to a sustaining healthy body. This may all sound very complicated and it is, but also keeping the balance does not have to be.

There are many ways in which our micrbiota gets thrown off balance. The main reasons are a poor diet (high in trans fats, processed foods, low fiber and low water intake,) lack of exercise, poor nutrient intake and over use of antibiotics. Poor gut health is one of the leading causes of illnesses in the western world, but the good news is its is preventable and reversible.

It Take (Good) Guts!

Happy Guts = Happy Mind:
There is 30 neurotransmitters found in the enteric nervous system. 95% of serotonin is found in the gut. Serotonin is known as the happy hormone, it is an antidepressant neurotransmitter; therefore good gut health will lead to good brain health. This is but only one role the gut plays on mental health.

Immunity:
Four thirds of the body’s immune system is found in the digestive tract. Your gut is actually your first line of defense against foreign invaders to the body. Technically your digestive tract is on the outside of your body, complicated I know but bear with me. The whole tract is covered by epithelial cells (aka: skin) just like the outside of your body. And it is the good gut bacteria, which controls what gets absorbed and utilized in the body and what gets pushed through as waste. When the bad bacteria in the gut outnumbers the good this selection process gets altered and more harmful materials get in.

Bad gut = Weight gain:
An unhealthy microbiota can lead to dysbiosis, which causes weight gain. There are also new studies, which have linked poor gut microbiota to obesity. Your microbiota will effect how your body metabolizes foods, leading to poor or low metabolism will effect how we gain or lose weight.

Gut Check: How To Have a Healthy Gut

Prebiotics: These are foods that help prepare the system for proper digestion. One of the best prebiotics is fiber. Fiber is one of the most important nutrients for the digestion, it is what keeps things moving and pulls the toxins out with it. Fiber also helps to nourish your microbiota encouraging the good guys to grow and multiply. Get your fiber through vegetables, fruits and whole grains and avoid processed foods with added fiber.

Probiotics:
Are substance that stimulates the growth of microorganisms in the intestinal flora (microbiota.) Probiotics work by adding good bacteria to the gut and balancing out the bad. We actually do need both. There are a few ways you can add probiotics to your health routine: eat it, drink it or take it. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut or kimchi are excellent sources and usually have lots of healthy strains. Fermented drinks such as kombucha (fermented tea) or kefir (fermented dairy) are also easy tasty sources. And if the fermented foods are not to your liking then there are many probiotic supplements on the market. When supplementing make sure you are choosing good quality brands, your local health food store will be able to help you pick the one that is right for you.

Apple cider vinegar:
If taken before meals, ACV will prime the system for digestion by stimulating the release of bile by the pancreas. If you are finding yourself feeling bloated, gases or have heartburn try a spoon full of ACV before meals and this should help calm your system down.

Water!:
Without adequate hydration the body cannot get ride of waste, leading to toxins being reabsorbed in the body. Water acts as the transport system in your digestive tract, circulating nutrients through the body. So make sure you are getting at least 64 oz. a day. Try adding a little lemon to your water (which contain pectins which encourages good intestinal flora.)

Happy (Gut) Health!

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