One of the trending topics in health and fitness today is gut health. It may be helpful to try and determine what exactly that means, and why you want a healthy gut. Gut health refers to the overall well-being associated with a person’s digestive system, but in particular, it focuses on the microorganisms and bacteria that call your gut home.
A person has several hundred different types of gut bacteria, and while some of these can be harmful to you, the vast majority of them are essential to a healthy lifestyle. One of the keys is finding ways to promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut while minimizing the spread of harmful bacteria.
A healthy gut means less exposure or risk of a variety of diseases, better ability to maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI), better energy levels, and a better functioning immune systems, among many other benefits. Many people think that nutrition is the most important factor in maintaining a healthy gut, but there are several things you can do to promote a healthy gut.
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Since your digestive system is the part that takes care of processing food, it follows that a healthy gut depends on solid nutrition. Foods high in added sugar or other highly processed substances promote the growth of harmful gut bacteria. Conversely, limiting the intake of highly processed foods can both slow the growth of these organisms, as well as help promote the spread of more beneficial bacteria.
Also, food sensitivities like gluten, dairy, or something similar, can also affect your gut. Eating a diverse range of foods that are mostly natural has been shown to reduce the levels of harmful bacteria as well as increase levels of beneficial bacteria. A diverse diet is a key to keeping the several hundred different species of bacteria happy and healthy.
We’ve all heard the adage about drinking eight glasses of water a day. Many experts encourage a much higher water intake to keep the body operating at peak efficiency. Some people even advocate a gallon of water or more per day to keep the system running smoothly.
Maintaining a good level of hydration has been shown to promote higher levels of a beneficial gut bacterium. With that said, hydration doesn’t necessarily reduce the levels of harmful bacteria. Instead, hydration increases the levels of good bacteria help to counter it. In addition to the many benefits associated with hydration, it is a key component of gut health.
Stress can lead to ulcers and have a negative effect on gut health. High-stress levels correlate with gut health. Stress has a profoundly negative effect on many bodily functions, and the gut is no exception. Finding a way to reduce chronic high stress is important to promote good gut health.
Brush Your Teeth
According to the NIH, “Oral bacteria spreading through the body have been associated with a number of systemic diseases. The gut is no exception. Studies in animals and humans have indicated that oral bacteria can translocate to the gut. It can change its microbiota and possibly immune defense.”
Without proper mouth hygiene, harmful bacteria occur and eventually find their way to the digestive system. These bacteria may even find their way into the bloodstream as well. Brush your teeth, floss, and mouthwash for a healthy mouth and a healthy gut.
Get Better Sleep
Science has continued to understand the connection between the gut and the brain. Poor gut health has been linked to higher stress levels, worse sleep, and even depression. Likewise, poor sleep habits may have a profound effect on gut health. In other words, the bacterial balance that exists in the intestines is dependent on good sleep habits. Sleep has important implications for all aspects of health. The gut is no exception.
Research suggests that nutrition, stress, hydration, sleep, and even oral hygiene can affect gut health. Gut health is important for maintaining a healthy weight and lowering the risk of various gastrointestinal diseases. Plus, gut health helps maintain an effective immune system. Follow these simple steps to keep the good bacteria doing their job and the bad ones from spreading.
Resources to Learn More about Gut Health
- Chris Kresser’s Functional Medicine Website
- The Brain-Gut Connection from Johns Hopkins University
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