Why is gut health important?
The Gastrointestinal (GI) tract plays an important role in sustaining good quality health. Your gut consists of bacteria that help the body process food and maintain homeostasis, which maintains internal stability and overall well-being.
External factors such as the environment, yo-yo dieting, emotional stress, prolonged intense exercise, and use of antibiotics can affect the gut bacteria. Food plays a major role in the bacterial make-up of the gut. Good bacteria is also required for digestion!
Bloating, diarrhoea, gas and stomach pain are direct signs of an unhealthy gut; the imbalance often fixes itself but if symptoms persist for a longer duration, it may require medical attention.
How to maintain good gut health?
Having a balanced diet full of lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and prebiotic foods such as onions, garlic, unripe bananas, artichokes and leeks, all contribute to feeding the good bacteria in our guts. Adequate sleep is also essential for our gut health!
Excessive amounts of alcohol, stress, smoking, over use of antibiotics, prolonged intense exercise can adversely affect it. Try to limit processed meat, refined sugar, fizzy drinks, and refined food, which can sometimes contribute to bloating.
What is the gut brain axis?
The communication system between your gut and brain is called the gut-brain axis. These two organs are connected both physically and biochemically in a number of different ways. The vagus nerve is one of the biggest nerves connecting your gut and brain.
It sends signals in both directions, and it is responsible for digestion! You can activate your vagus nerve by performing regular meditation, which helps to relax the vagus nerve. A large proportion of serotonin (happy hormone) is produced in the gut! Serotonin works by causing intestinal contractions, which also help to stimulate digestion, so you can see why serotonin is also important!
Fermented food such as kefir, and kombucha etc possess a range of benefits from increasing vitamin concentrations such as folate and B12, supporting our immunity, and lowering blood pressure. Fermenting may also lower gluten and lactose content in some sourdough bread and dairy. HOWEVER at the moment scientific evidence is limited, and more higher quality clinical studies are required.
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