“Gut Health” This is a statement that we hear thrown around all the time. But what on earth is it?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health as, and I quote “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” (WHO,1946)
Translating this to gut health, we could explain it by saying, gut health is a state of physical and mental well-being without any gastrointestinal complaints, and with no risks or confirmed bowel disease. (Bischoff, 2011)
The Gastrointestinal tract consists of the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine and anus. The pancreas, liver, gallbladder also play and important part in digestive health. Simply put, this is where our food enters our bodies to be, broken down, digested and absorbed, into blood stream and unused parts are excreted. This is how we get the “fuel” we need to run our bodies.
It is a very important body system, that needs to be looked after.
A human gut is it own little ecosystem. This is called the gut microbiome. We have about 100 trillion bacteria living in and on our bodies, most of them are in our gut. (Amon, Sanderson, 2017) There are good and bad bacteria, which all keep each other in check. The bacteria aid with digestion, produce vitamin B and K and help with immune support therefore helping you feel good.
When the bacteria are out of balance, as in the bad bacteria are more dominant, we often find that symptoms appear that could be related to unbalance and diseases.
Symptoms of an unhealthy gut include, constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain, sleep problems, skin problems, food intolerances, depression, anxiety, or irritability. These can lead to diseases such as IBS, eczema, diabetes, obesity and some cancers.
The gut is directly linked to the brain. They communicate directly with each other. This is why an unhealthy gut, can lead to anxiety and depression.
Did you know that 90% of the “happy hormone” serotonin is produced in the gut? (Ganjhu)
Modern day life with processed foods, fast food, stress, fast pace life, screens, antibiotic use and lack of activity is affecting our gut.
The good news is that the gut can be aided to heal itself. Changing your diet to a whole food diet is the key to a healthier gut. You would not put petrol into your diesel car, so why do you put the wrong fuel into your body?
If you feel that your gut is out of balance, a good way to start to ensure that your gut is healthy, is to see your natural health practitioner. They will access your needs and if required, there are many tests that can be performed to optimise your health. Tests include a comprehensive digestive stool analysis, hydrogen breath test or organic acid tests, to name a few. Every person is different. Your practitioner will prescribe a plan and possibly supplements that are right for you.
There are many other things that can be done to ensure and aid gut health:
Change your diet to a whole food diet, with plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, legumes, fibre, fresh fish, fresh grass-fed meats, and poultry.
Adding bone broth to your diet.
Eat prebiotic foods like raw garlic and onions, raw asparagus, under ripe bananas. These are foods for probiotics.
Eat some probiotic foods almost every day. Natural yogurt (if dairy is tolerated), fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir.
Make sure you get regular exercise.
Maintain a healthy body weight.
It can be harder to lose weight if your gut is not healthy.
Reduce alcohol intake and stop smoking.
You only have one body, why not make it the best that you can.
Written by Zita Dixon – Clinical Nutritionist and Nambour Nutritionist
Amon, P. Sanderson, I. (2017) What is the Microbiome?
Bischoff, SC (2011) ‘Gut Health”: A New Objective in Medicine?
Ganjhu, L (no date) Your Gut Feeling: A Healthier Digestive System Means a Healthier You
World Who Organisation (2019) WHO remains firmly committed to the principles set out in the preamble to the Constitution