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Gut Health 101 And How To Improve It

Truth be told, your relationship with your gut can never be exclusive. The health of your gut is influenced by so many factors—including hormones, what you eat, stress level, and medication to name just a few. Therefore, when you experience problems with your gut, narrowing down the root cause can be tricky. Not sure why you’re feeling yucky? It could be your gut trying to tell you something. Just like in any relationship, communication is key. So let’s take a moment to get to know your gut and how it speaks.

Gut Anatomy 101

Your gut, or gastrointestinal tract, is the whole shebang starting at your mouth and continuing to the stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and ending at the anus. The gut is primarily responsible for the digestion of food by secreting enzymes in both the mouth and stomach. The gut is then challenged with absorbing the nutrients from those broken-down foods. While some nutrients are absorbed in the stomach, most of the absorption occurs in the small intestine due to its large surface area. Any undigested material then continues on to the large intestine for re-absorption—or beyond for elimination. If digesting and absorbing isn’t enough of a job, the gut also plays a huge role in immunity. This is where playing up that good gut bacteria can come in handy, as it prevents infectious pathogens from making themselves feel at home in your gut.
It really should be clear at this point just how crucial your gut is to your overall health. Living a healthy lifestyle extends far beyond the gym. Sometimes the most important body parts to focus on are the ones you can’t even see. Listen to your body and consider taking action using these simple steps to improve your gut health!

Warning Signs of Poor Gut Health:

  • Gas, bloating, diarrhea, nausea, constipation or abdominal pain
  • Food sensitivities or allergies
  • Shifts in mood or anxiety
  • Eczema or acne
  • Frequent infections
  • Autoimmune Disease (example: Crohn’s disease)
  • Extreme tiredness

Simple Ways to Improve Gut Health:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid foods that cause digestive distress. Common offenders are:
    • Gluten
    • Dairy
    • Soy
    • Corn
    • Eggs
    • Sugar
    • Coffee
    • Alcohol
  • Reduce stress levels
  • Aim for 8 hours of sleep per night
  • Take a probiotic supplement
  • Eat foods low in processed sugar and high in fiber like fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat fermented foods that promote gut health like:
    • Kombucha
    • Kimchi or sauerkraut
    • Sourdough
    • Yogurt or kefir
What irritates or sits well for one person may not work for another, so many sure to listen to your body and adjust if you need to, just like you do when you try a new exercise!
Sources: Understanding Nutrition with Environmental Science by Ellie Whitney and Sharon Rady Rolfes (2007), 10 Signs You Have An Unhealthy Gut – Mind Body Green, The Ins and Outs – Love Your Gut

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