More than a gut feeling: Why gut health is so important, how to improve it

Eating certain foods can help you maintain a healthy gut

Stock image. Andres Ayrton (Pexels)

Believe it or not, some bacteria for your body can be good.

In particular, having the right bacteria in your gut is essential for overall health and well-being.

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With the gut being the center of the body, it can affect the health of so many other organ systems. Having proper gut health can help maintain a strong immune system, a healthy heart, and mental health.

But how do you know if you have the proper bacteria in your gut and what are signs you don’t?

Here are some signs of an unhealthy gut, and ways to make sure your gut is healthy and functioning properly, according to Healthline.

Why having a healthy gut is so important

According to studies, not having proper gut health has been linked to the following:

  • Immune system problems
  • Mental health issues
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Endocrine disorders

What can cause an unhealthy gut

  • Improper diet. Eating foods high in sugar and saturated fat, or foods that are processed, and consuming too much alcohol can decrease the levels of good bacteria in your gut.
  • Not getting enough sleep. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can cause changes to the gut flora and increase the abundance of bacteria that is associated with weight gain and obesity, according to Healthline.
  • Stress. High stress levels have been shown to alter gut bacteria and reduce blood flow.
  • Use of antibiotics. Antibiotics have been shown to cause decline in bacteria that is beneficial in the gut.
  • A lack of exercise. People who are more active tend to produce more health-promoting bacteria.
  • Smoking. This can cause harm to every organ in the body, and the gut is no exception.

What are signs of an unhealthy gut?

  • Upset stomach. This can be ailments such as gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea or heartburn.
  • Unintentional weight changes. This can be gaining or losing weight without changing diet or exercise habits.
  • Sleep disturbances. Can be fragmented sleep or short sleep duration.
  • Skin irritation. Lower concentrations of bacteria that is helpful might affect the much of the body, including the skin.
  • Food intolerances. This is the result of not being able to properly digest certain foods.

What are foods that can help improve gut health?

By consuming more of what is mentioned below, gut health can be enhanced.

  • Fruit, vegetables, beans and legumes. Most of this foods contain high amounts of fiber, which are good for your gut bacteria. They include raspberries, apples, bananas, artichokes, broccoli, green peas, chickpeas, lentils, beans and whole grains.
  • Fermented foods. Examples of this type of food includes yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha and tempeh.
  • Prebiotic foods. This includes onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, berries, oats and bananas.
  • Foods rich in polyphenols. These are plant compounds that can help reduce blood pressure, inflammation and cholesterol levels. They include cocoa and dark chocolate, red wine, grape skins, green tea, almonds, onions, blueberries and broccoli.

While the gut is complex and research is ongoing, any medical personnel will tell you the gut is not only the center of the body, but also for good health.

About the Author

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.

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