keeping your gut in balance
In the midst of the Coronavirus right now, having a strong and healthy immune system is more important than ever!
There are steps you can take to make yourself healthier, and we’ve got a great series that focuses on a super important part of your immune health: your gut!
There has been a LOT of buzz about “gut health” lately … and for a very good reason.
Your gut health doesn’t affect just your digestion (although that’s super important) … but also your heart, your brain, your immune system, and even your mood.
And with a global pandemic happening, it seems like a good time to focus even more on our overall wellness!
You have about 100 trillion (!!!) microbes living in your gut right now. And there are about 1,000 different species of known gut bacteria.
(Fun Fact #1: if you were to weigh all the bacteria in your gut, they would weigh over 2 kg!
Some of these bacteria are your personal army of helpers, digesting your food, making energy, and keeping your immune system strong.
And others are not-so-good, linked with digestive upset, inflammation, obesity, and even conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and asthma.
As you can imagine, you want to make sure your gut stays in balance, with more of the good guys than the bad guys!
YOU have the power to do just that with your food and lifestyle choices!
But now for fun fact #2 … your individual gut microbiome is like your fingerprint. No one else’s is exactly the same.
All of us share about one-third of the same microbiota makeup – but two-thirds of your microbiota “fingerprint” are unique to YOU!
Even though we all have our own unique gut microbiome, the basic guidelines for keeping it in balance work for nearly everyone!
So what can you do to improve your gut health?
- Make sure you’re getting enough fiber, including insoluble fiber. These fibers are what the good bacteria in your small intestine like to feed on.
- Eat fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut, because they contain healthy bacteria that can replenish your gut microbiome. This is especially true if you have taken antibiotics, which can affect the balance of your gut bacteria.
- Avoid processed foods and sugar. The bad-guy bacteria like to feed on these!
- Cut stress. Meditate, journal, go outside for some fresh air. There’s a direct connection (your vagus nerve) between your brain and your gut, each affecting the other!
- Get regular exercise. The more active you are, the happier your gut microbiome is!
- Get enough sleep. When your sleep is disrupted, so are the good bacteria in your microbiome. And vice versa!
It’s amazing how everything works together, isn’t it?
The “good” bacteria that live inside your gut need to eat, just like you do.
They love to nibble on insoluble fibers (aka “prebiotics”) that are tough enough to survive the trip through your stomach. Meanwhile, the “bad” bacteria inside your gut thrive in a low-fiber environment with sugars, processed foods and grains, additives, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and fillers.
Experts theorize that when there’s not enough food for your good bacteria, they physically starve.
This gives the bad bacteria a chance to get a foothold, which can cause some major problems!
It all hinges on the lining of your gut. This lining is actually a super important part of your immune system, because it forms a barrier between the food you eat and the rest of your body.
When this lining becomes too permeable (when the bad bacteria begin to take over) …
Toxins, bacteria, and even partially digested foods can “leak out” of your digestive system and make their way into your bloodstream. (this is called Leaky Gut!)
This can lead to inflammation and even trigger an immune system response. And you definitely don’t want that!
Over time, this can cause a whole host of problems like chronic fatigue syndrome, migraines, auto-immune diseases, skin conditions and more.
This is why we always talk about eating whole, “clean” foods. Because when your gut is happy, it makes the rest of your body happy.
Like I mentioned earlier, the key to a healthy gut microbiome is BALANCE (including exercise, sleep, diet, stress, and more).
Now more than ever, balance is SO IMPORTANT to keeping you (and the people you care for!) healthy and strong.