You may be hearing a lot about the gut lately, and the importance of good gut health. What do we mean by “gut?”
The mouth is actually the first part of the gastrointestinal tract. When we eat food, it passes down the throat and esophagus, into the stomach, and then into the small intestine. Although digestion of carboydrates and fat begins in the mouth via your saliva, the small intestine is where most food is digested and absorbed by the bloodstream. After that, it proceeds into the large intestine, also known as the colon, and the final part of the colon leads on to the rectum, where waste products are excreted. “The gut” usually refers to the stomach, small intestine, and colon.
Why is good gut health so important?
More than 2000 years ago, Hippocrates, the father of medicine, announced that all diseases begin in the gut. Of course, he was way ahead of his time, and not many in those days understood or appreciated what he meant.
Research has proved just how right he was, and revealed that gut health is critical to general good health. Studies have also shown that poor gut health contributes to diseases which include diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, acne, and depression.
Several aspects of our modern day lifestyle may directly contribute to the unhealthy gut problem. Here are some of them:
- Antibiotics, birth control, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), and some other medications
- Diets high in sugars, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods
- Diets low in fiber
- Chronic stress and chronic infections
Symptoms of an unhealthy gut:
- Excessive gas and abdominal bloating
- Heartburn and/or acid reflux
- Digestive problems related to what you eat
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Ulcerative colitis
- Lower abdomen pain
If you have at least one or more of the above, it could a sign that your gut health needs attention. Don’t wait, have it checked out by a medical practitioner.
The dangers of an unhealthy gut:
An unhealthy gut leads to many disorders which may affect your immune system and the colon’s ability to function properly. It can make you vulnerable to developing serious illness.
Some of the major problems which may result from poor gut health:
- Colon cancer
- Polyps in the colon which can become cancerous
- Ulcers of the colon and rectum
- Irritable bowel syndrome which will not clear up
- Autoimmune diseases
- Poor immune system function
- Chronic skin problems
- Chronic digestive troubles
- Type 2 diabetes
All of these illnesses are serious, and it is possible that some may lead to long-term, permanent damage to your health if you ignore the symptoms and do not take care of your intestinal tract.
How to maintain a healthy gut:
Your diet plays a huge part in promoting and maintaining the health of this vital organ. Foods which help to restore intestinal health:
- Probiotics help support beneficial gut bacteria. They can be takes as daily supplements, and are also found in:
- Miso soup
- Eat a whole-foods diet including meat, fish, poultry, leafy green and non-starchy vegetables, some fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds
- Take a good multi-vitamin with Vitamin D to support your gut health
Foods to avoid:
- All sugars and refined foods made from flour, including processed foods
- Breaded meats and fried food
- Sodas, energy drinks, and sugary coffee drinks
- People with lactose intolerance should also avoid dairy products, which will aggravate the gut and cause inflammation
Manage your stress
If you are stressed out, take some steps to manage and reduce your stress for your gut’s sake! Stress by itself won’t cause ulcers or bowel disease, but it can exacerbate disease. If are stressed by events in your life, you may wind up with diarrhea or constipation as a result. Stress can also lower your immune system and make you susceptible to illness and disease.
Try to handle your stress in a responsible way, utilizing breathing techniques, meditation, exercise, and music. Eating junk foods might make you feel better in the very short-term, but it has long-term negative effects on your body’s gut and overall health and well-being.
As Hippocrates famously said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” You can help prevent illness and disease. The power of probiotics, and a healthy diet rooted in gut-healing foods can make this possible and restore your health from the inside out.