As we know the health of our gut is extremely important for good digestion however not all of us are aware of the impact poor gut health has on every system in our body. Keeping our gut in tip top condition will not only improve digestive function but it will do wonders for boosting the health and wellbeing of the entire body, both mentally and physically.
The gut, or gastrointestinal system, is made up of vital digestive organs that are responsible for many essential tasks. The gut breaks down food and absorbs nutrients to provide energy, and to build, repair and nourish the body. It plays the important role of removing waste and toxins, and it’s the body’s first line of defense against harmful bacteria and pathogens. A large percentage of our neurotransmitters and immune cells are also produced in the gut.
Our gastrointestinal and immune systems are intrinsically linked. Around 70-80% of our immune cells lie within the digestive tract. This makes the gut one of the main disease fighting systems in our body.
Our gut also greatly impacts the functioning of our brain and our emotional state. Our gut is often referred to as our ‘second brain’ because of this. Our gut contains neurons, just like in our brain, that produce neurotransmitters. Most of our brain chemicals, including serotonin, dopamine, GABA and norepinephrine are actually produced in the gut. In fact, 90% of our serotonin which is responsible for us feeling happy is made in the gut not the brain. So maintaining a healthy gut will not only make you feel healthier but happier too.
It’s no wonder a healthy gut is said to be the foundation of good health and wellbeing.
6 STEPS TO IMPROVE YOUR GUT HEALTH
Probiotics are foods and supplements that contain live bacteria that help boost our good gut microbiota. Probiotics are found in fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, miso, kavass, kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut and other fermented veggies. Fermentation also increases the bioavailability and digestibility of nutrients in foods.
Our beneficial gut microbiota need certain foods to ensure they survive and thrive in the digestive tract. Prebiotics are foods that feed our beneficial gut bacteria to help them to grow and flourish. Prebiotics are found in fibre-rich foods such as green bananas, onions, garlic, soybeans, Jerusalem artichokes, flaxseeds, and whole grains like whole oats and barley.
Including enough fibre in the diet is of utmost importance for maintaining a healthy gut. Fibre passes undigested into the bowel where it’s broken down and fermented by gut bacteria which produce short chain fatty acids (SCFA), namely butyrate and acetate. These SCFA are the main energy source for intestinal cells and act as a prebiotic helping to stimulate the growth of beneficial gut microbiota. For optimal gut health you should include a variety of fibre-rich sources in your daily diet such as brown rice, whole oats, quinoa, chia and flaxseeds, legumes, sweet potato, corn, raw nuts, and a variety of fruits and veggies.
Bone broths made from chicken, beef, lamb or fish bones contain collagen that help soothe, nourish and repair the gut lining. Bone broths are easy to digest and are a popular healing food for anyone with a leaky gut. You can easily make bone broths at home. Use bone broths as a nourishing base for soups or stews, or as a healing warm drink.
Gut healing herbal teas:
Chamomile, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and liquorice are all excellent anti-inflammatory botanicals that can be enjoyed as a tea to help reduce inflammation and promote healing of the gut lining.
Calmative herbs such as peppermint, aniseed, cinnamon, fennel, ginger and chamomile have been traditionally used by herbalists to alleviate digestive complaints such as excess wind and bloating. Slippery elm, aloe vera and marshmallow are also lovely soothing herbs that are used to heal the gut mucosa.
Glutamine is an amino acid that is the primary fuel source for the cells that line the gut. Glutamine is recommended for anyone with a leaky gut (gut permeability). Leaky gut is when the gut lining or mucosa becomes inflamed and small gaps appear. Long-term antibiotic therapy and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory use are common causes of leaky gut. Glutamine helps repair and strengthen the gut mucosa by tightening up the openings in the gut wall, which will prevent large undigested food particles and toxins from entering the blood stream. Glutamine also helps soothe the gut by suppressing inflammation. Supplementation is also recommended for anyone with coeliac disease or any type of inflammatory bowel condition.
Written by Lisa Guy
Naturopath and Founder of Bodhi Organic Tea.