Gut Health 101: How to Have a Happy Gut

Welcome to Gut Health 101! In this article, you will learn just how important our gut health is. Gut health, also known as digestive health, impacts the health of other areas of our bodies, such as heart health, skin, and hormones, to name a few. And you will learn the benefits of a healthy digestive system, how to identify if you have poor gut health, and the top ways to improve your health through your gut. 

What is Gut Health?

So what exactly is gut health? This popular term refers to the health of our digestive system and also to the gut microbiome. If you have heard that we have healthy bacteria in our gut, they are part of the microbiome. Having good gut health means that your digestive tract is working properly and you also have a good balance of healthy bacteria, viruses, and fungi (also known as the microbiota) in your intestines. 

Why is Gut Health so Important?

Over recent years, gut health and the microbiome have been found to impact the health of all areas of our bodies, from the heart, brain, skin, joints, and of course, digestion. The food we eat is broken down by digestion and absorbs nutrients from our food, starting in the mouth and through the esophagus, stomach, and small and large intestines. The healthy bacteria also help break down nutrients our digestive system cannot. 

containers of berries and raw vegetables.
Nutrient-dense foods good for gut health

Gut health is also important because of the microbiota living in our guts and the role they play. According to Wu and Wu, the microbiota help digest some of the food we eat, and they also can produce nutrients, detoxify, and protect against harmful bacteria and viruses. And 70-80% of our immune cells are in the gut, and the microbiota also interacts to regulate the immune system.

Benefits of a Healthy Gut

As mentioned before, the gut impacts so many areas of our bodies. Therefore, having a healthy gut will promote an overall healthy body! More specifically, a healthy gut promotes a strong immune system, good heart health, mood, and mental health, improves sleep, promotes healthy skin, and can prevent some cancers and autoimmune diseases. Therefore, improving your gut health will also benefit your overall health. 

What are the Signs of Poor Gut Health?

Poor gut health can lead to problems such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and autoimmune diseases such as Celiac Disease and thyroid conditions. If you are wondering if your gut is healthy, these signs may indicate that your gut health may need to improve.

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Unintentional weight gain or loss
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Abdominal pain
  • Poor sleep
  • Brain fog
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Food intolerances or allergies
  • Depression or anxiety

What are the Top Ways to Improve Gut Health?

If you have any signs of poor gut health, don’t worry, there are ways to improve it. While gut health is complex and research continues to uncover more information, there are known ways to improve your gut health. 

Nutrition

Eating a nutritious and healthy diet is the most profound way to improve and heal your gut. When it comes to gastrointestinal health, everyone is different and has different foods they tolerate or don’t tolerate. But, according to Dr. Ruscio, author of Healthy Gut, Healthy You, some of these basic nutrition concepts can improve digestion in most people. 

  • Eliminate allergens and inflammatory foods such as gluten and dairy
  • Limit intake of high FODMAP foods
  • Lower intake of carbohydrates to control blood sugars
  • Eat mostly whole and fresh foods to limit your intake of processed foods
gut health 101, eating a large bowl of raw vegetables.
whole and fresh vegetables

Collagen for gut health

Collagen has been known to improve your skin, hair, nails, and joints, but it can also heal your gut. It is a type of protein that is part of our connective tissues, bones, and skin. You can take collagen supplements. In addition, you can eat foods that contain collagen, such as meat, bone broth, and gelatin. 

Stress reduction

Stress has a major effect on our health, especially gut health. When you incorporate a healthy lifestyle that helps to lower stress, this can improve your digestion. Some ways you can reduce your stress are: 

  • Meditating
  • Getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night
  • Spending time in nature
  • Getting adequate sun exposure and vitamin D
  • Maintaining social connections

Exercise

Exercise is another way to reduce your stress and also plays a role in improving gut health. Studies have shown that hormones released during exercise help to stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria. 

Also, exercising outside is preferred because you can get sun exposure and maintain healthy vitamin D levels. And being in nature benefits your microbiota and immune system by being exposed to bacteria. Walking is a vital way to stay active and helps keep adequate levels of bacteria in your gut.

However, it is essential to remember that too much exercise can negatively affect microbiota and cause a leaky gut. Signs of exercising too much can be chronically sore muscles, injuries, and significant fatigue after workouts. Start by exercising one to two days per week for twenty to thirty minutes each time and increase gradually as tolerated. 

Probiotics

Another way to have a happy gut is with probiotics. Probiotics are living, healthy bacteria that promote the microbiota (healthy bacteria) and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Probiotics can be found in supplements and fermented foods.

Probiotic food sources include: 

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Miso
  • Tempeh
  • Kombucha
  • Pickles
  • Sourdough bread
  • Some cheeses, such as Swiss, provolone, gouda, and cottage cheese
bowl of yogurt with bananas and strawberries.
bowl of yogurt with lots of fresh fruit

Read this post to learn more about probiotic and prebiotic foods.

Conclusion

This Gut Health 101 guide taught you that maintaining a healthy and happy gut is the key to promoting overall health. Eating whole foods, limiting allergens and inflammatory foods, staying active, preferably outside in nature, and focusing on stress reduction, such as meditation, are key ways to healing your gut if you have noticed any problems. Working with a gastrointestinal doctor, functional medicine doctor, and a registered dietitian will ensure you address any specific issues. 

References

Wiertsema SP, van Bergenhenegouwen J, Garssen J, Knippels LMJ. The Interplay between the Gut Microbiome and the Immune System in the Context of Infectious Diseases throughout Life and the Role of Nutrition in Optimizing Treatment Strategies. Nutrients. 2021; 13(3):886. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13030886 

Wu, J., & Wu, E. (2012). The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity. Gut Microbes, 3(1), 4-14. https://doi.org/10.4161/gmic.19320

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2 Comments

  1. This article was very helpful, informative, and interesting. I would like to find out ways, via recipes, to cook and incorporate some of the high fiber low carb food into my diet. Thank you for these articles!