Have you been struggling with digestion issues like bloating, nausea, or sugar cravings? These all can be signs of an unhealthy gut, and your gut health can directly impact your overall health.
Do not panic; there are tried and true ways of turning an unhealthy gut into a gut operating at its full potential. Keep reading to learn more about the importance of gut health and how to become a digestion superstar.
What Is Gut Health?
The gastrointestinal tract, which includes the esophagus, stomach, and intestines, makes up the gut.
Within the GI tract, there is a microbiome that includes all of the organisms living within your gut, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The microbiome is called a supporting organ because of its importance in the body. Before you start panicking that there are “bugs' living in your body, know that they are supposed to be there and crucial for the function of the gut.
A healthy gut includes a healthy microbiome with a balance of good and bad bacteria. If the balance gets tipped to having more bad bacteria in the gut, it can lead to negative health effects. Luckily, more and more research comes out about the gut all of the time and how to keep it healthy.
Why Is Gut Health Important?
Gut health isn't just about the gut. Where you have a healthy gut, you generally have good overall health. Here are some specific areas where gut health is important.
When our gut is at its prime, so is our immune system. Our immune system works every day to protect us against outside pathogens. Together with the microbiome, the immune system works to destroy these pathogens in the gut.
Sometimes, the immune system is a little too quick to judge an intruder and thinks certain foods are bad, and the immune cells attack. This is often the case with food allergies. For example, if someone is allergic to dairy, when that person consumes dairy, the immune cells within the gut attack the dairy, causing adverse symptoms like wheezing, hives, or bloating.
There is ongoing research showing that supporting the gut microbiome can help with food allergies, but always talk to your doctor, especially if you have severe allergies.
Heart health and gut health are tightly linked. Having a healthy microbiome may lead to lower blood pressure and healthier arteries.
While the link is still not fully understood, some research suggested that the short-chain fatty acids made only in the gut may have a role in promoting better heart health.
Gut health is important for weight management. When your microbiome is balanced, your gut is better able to do its job of digesting the food you eat and eliminating the waste.
If food is broken down properly, your gut can better absorb the nutrients in the food and send out those nutrients to the rest of the body, which can help reduce your risk of obesity.
Have you heard the saying “I have a gut feeling”? Do you know the queasy feeling you get before making a big presentation? Those are because of the brain-gut connection.
The gut is lined with the nerves, neurons, and neurotransmitters forming a “second brain,” or the enteric nervous system. The gut and the brain are in direct communication with each other at all times, so supporting a healthy gut can lead to benefits in mental health.
Ways to Improve Gut Health
How do you improve such a vital area of health? It all starts with lifestyle. It is all interconnected, from the foods you eat or do not eat to how you move your body.
You have probably heard probiotics mentioned before, perhaps in your favorite yogurt, but what are they?
Probiotics are living organisms in some foods that are good bacteria for the gut. This is the opposite of antibiotics, which kill bacteria in the gut, including the good guys. While antibiotics have their place, supporting the gut, especially after a round of antibiotics, is crucial.
When you consume fermented foods, the good bacteria goes into your gut and helps break down the food more efficiently. They also help get rid of bad bacteria that may be in your gut.
Fermented foods are foods many of us eat every day and probably don’t even realize the health benefits we are getting. Yogurt is a fermented milk product, and cabbage-based fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi are also popular. Tempeh and miso are both soy-based fermented foods, too.
There are also beverages that provide probiotics. Kefir is a fermented milk beverage with sour notes like yogurt. Kombucha, made of fermented tea, is also known for its probiotic powers.
We know we have good bacteria in our gut, but what fuels them? The answer is prebiotics.
Prebiotics are a special plant fiber that is indigestible. While our bodies cannot digest these fibers, the good gut bacteria uses them as food. Prebiotics not only feed good bacteria, but they may also help with the absorption of calcium into the body.
To ensure you are getting enough prebiotics in your diet, add plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans. Asparagus, apples, bananas, onions, leeks, and berries are also all high in prebiotic fibers.
For an extra boost, VINA Prebiotic Soda is made with added organic inulin, a prebiotic fiber. Adding in a fun, delicious, bubbly beverage is a great way to make sure you are getting all those good prebiotics while satisfying your thirst in the best way.
Eating Whole Foods
Making sure to base your diet on whole foods as much as possible is essential for a healthy gut. Getting plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and lean meats to your diet is sure to boost the health of your gut. Even foods like garlic and peas can be helpful for your gut health.
Highly processed foods and foods with a lot of trans fats are all bad for your gut. All of these foods hurt the gut microbiome by reducing the number of good bacteria.
Skip the Sugar
We get it; taking sugar out of your diet can feel next to impossible. But a healthy diet doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Reducing the amount of sugar you consume can make a big difference.
Also, understanding where the sugar is coming from is another key. Sugars naturally from fruits do not have the same harmful effects as sugar in a candy bar filled with artificial sweeteners. Keep an eye out for added sugars and artificial sugars. These added ingredients can disrupt the balance in the gut.
Move Your Body
It’s not all about eating the right things. Regular exercise can help increase microbiome diversity. The exercise you chose doesn’t have to be something super intense. Even a brisk walk can help to boost your gut health.
Once you are finished with your exercise, you can treat yourself to a refreshing after-workout drink.
Gut health is crucial to many functions in the body, such as immune health, heart health, weight management, and mental health. If you feel like your gut health may need a boost, adding in things like probiotics, prebiotics, and whole foods may be just what the gut needs to increase the good bacteria. Cutting out sugar and getting regular exercise also supports healthy gut function.
At VINA, we want to support your tastebuds and gut health with our deliciously refreshing prebiotic soda.
The Microbiome | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
If you want to boost immunity, look to the gut | UCLA Health Connect
The Role of the Microbiome in Food Allergy: A Review | nih.gov
Healthy gut, healthy heart? | Harvard Health
Gut-Brain Connection: What It is, Behavioral Treatments | Cleveland Clinic
Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects | nih.gov