We’ve all heard of gut health before, but what does it actually mean and why should we care about it? When we refer to gut health we are actually talking about the bacteria that reside throughout our entire digestive system. It is a highly complex system that is comprised of anywhere from 300-1000 species of bacteria! This bacteria also pairs with other archea, fungi and viruses and compose what is referred to as the microbiota or microbiome.
Unique to You
Everyone’s microbiome is a little bit different and unique to their body. A number of different factors created your current gut health. This list includes: how you were birthed (c-section or vaginal), your exposure to antibiotics, if you were breastfed and for how long, levels of stress, and of course diet and lifestyle choices growing up.
What Does It Do?
This concoction of microorganisms actually plays a crucial role in our overall health. Studies show that our gut health can directly impact our immune function, endocrine system, and metabolism. There are still ongoing studies and research behind gut bacteria and its link to various diseases. There is evidence that ties having variations in your microbiota to metabolic syndrome, inflammatory bowel diseases, and mental illness to name a few.
What About Probiotics?
The solution to optimizing your gut health is not just about taking probiotics, but potentially making other changes to your nutrition and lifestyle practices. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that help balance out the “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut. However, just like any other supplement, you may want to look at the root of the issue first. Taking probiotics may not be helpful if you are still not eating well and taking care of your body. They are also not appropriate for people with specific types of medical conditions and can cause gastrointestinal distress.
Improving Your Health
A better solution may be simply looking at not only the types of foods you are eating, but also if you’re taking the time to sit down and properly digest those foods. It’s simple, the easier you make it on your body to absorb and digest food, the less digestive stress you will generate. Other questions to ask yourself are:
- Am I getting enough sleep?
- Am I eating a diverse range of healthy foods?
- What does my daily stress look like?
- What does my intake look like for alcohol or cigarette use?
- Am I getting enough physical activity?
Working on all these different factors may lead to drastic improvements in your gut health. We do recommend always consulting with a medical professional first!
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