Gut Health 101! Learn how the health of your gut affects your mood and mental health, and pick up a few easy tips for how to keep your gut happy and flourishing.
One of the biggest takeaways from my health coach education was the importance of gut health. Your gut is often referred to as the center of your health, your second brain.
From Psychology Today, “There’s an entire ecosystem of bacteria and a vast neural network operating in our guts. This ecosystem is our second brain, and comprises some 100 million neurons, more than the spinal cord.” This is SO fascinating to me!
The article goes on to say that your gut health strongly influences your mood and mental health.
When we talk about gut health, we’re talking about two main components: stomach acid and gut bacteria. In order to have tip-top digestion, both your stomach acid and “good” bacteria need to be in balance.
Do you suffer from heartburn/acid reflux/GERD? Contrary to what you may believe, you might have too little stomach acid instead of too much. We’ll get to how to balance that more in a bit!
What about gut bacteria? Your gut bacteria is responsible for so much in digestion. Without the right balance of bacteria, nutrient absorption, digestion and assimilation aren’t optimal. Isn’t that what it’s all about?! Why are we eating if we can’t digest and absorb nutrients? Kidding… but only kind of.
I like to think that we are born with a balanced body and then what happens from that point forward either helps or hurts our health (as a whole). There are a few factors that play directly into our gut health that are important to be aware of as we move through life:
Stress. Stress is a doozy and needs to be addressed! Stress looks different for everyone but let’s just all agree that life is stressful. It’s important to be aware of your stress and to try to do what you can to manage yours personally. Need ideas? Check out this post I wrote about how to stress less.
Diet. What you eat affects your body. But you knew this already, right? Certain foods cause inflammation that can kill good gut bacteria and allow bad bacteria to thrive. “Back in the day,” people weren’t eating out of a box. They were eating fresh, whole foods and had to ferment to preserve their food. Check out my blog on the health benefits of fermented foods!
Modern medicine. Don’t get me wrong, I am a believer of Eastern and Western medicine. I believe there is space for both in today’s world. Having said that, it’s important to note that certain medications kill off the good bacteria in the gut and antibiotics clear out all bacteria in the gut. Again, I 100% understand that it’s important to be on certain medications and/or antibiotics, I just want you to be aware that these could disrupt your gut.
So what can we do to help heal our gut and keep it happy?
Manage stress! This will look different for everyone, so tune in to you and your body and do what you need to manage your stress.
Look at your diet! If you have constant gut health issues it might be time to really sit down and look at what you’re putting in your body. Some of the worst gut-health disrupters include gluten, dairy, eggs, soy and sugar. And sadly it’s not just processed sugar; even so-called healthy or unrefined sugars like coconut sugar and maple syrup can cause issues if eaten in excess. To really nail down if any of these are causing your issues, you may need to do an elimination diet.
Eat real food! If you don’t have any major issues and you’re just looking to boost your gut health, I recommend sticking with a diet rich in lean protein (free-range poultry, wild-caught fish, grass-fed meats), healthy fats (especially nuts and seeds), fiber-rich leafy greens and cruciferous veggies, and slow-digesting carbs (oats, sweet potatoes and winter squash).
Consider incorporating fermented foods! Good bacteria needs good food to thrive, and fermented foods can certainly help. This includes things like kefir, yogurt, kombucha, miso, sauerkraut… there are so many tasty options out there! You might need to get used to the taste but trust me, it’ll grow on you!
Consider taking a probiotic supplement! Talk to your doctor or health practitioner and see if a probiotic supplement might be good for you. Look for a high-quality brand with a variety of strands. I usually buy mine from the cold storage section at Whole Foods.
Consider taking collagen! Some studies have shown it to help with gut health. Learn more about collagen here!
Try bone broth! Bone broth is packed with nourishing minerals that are soothing and healing for the gut. There are super simple recipes to make your own, and most health food stores have started selling it too.
I know that’s a lot of information I just threw at you, but what is ONE thing you’re going to start doing for your gut this week? Just one!