Did you know that there are about 1,000 different species of bacteria that thrive in our guts? Trillions of these bacteria live in our digestive tracts and influence the way our body functions.
It may seem gross but not all bacteria are bad for you. While some of these microorganisms are definitely bad for your health, a lot of them are essential and actually benefit our health.
Our digestive system affects all other bodily functions. Having unhealthy guts affects our immune system and prevents us from avoiding disease. It has been linked to several chronic health problems such as depression, anxiety, hormonal imbalance, diabetes, obesity and skin problems among many.
Keeping a proper balance of good and bad bacteria ensures a healthy gut. Food you take in needs to be used by your body effectively and the only way to do that is to have a perfectly functioning digestive system.
How do we know if the bad bacteria has taken over the good ones? Here are some warning signs which you most probably have experienced in one way or another.
1. You have bad skin
An unhealthy gut always manifests itself in the quality of your skin. Your stubborn breakouts and uncontrollable acne problems are telling you that there may be something wrong with what’s inside.
A study has been conducted to support the Brain-Gut-Skin theory that delves into the effects of gut health in skin problems such as acne. Supportive evidence have been found to suggest that microorganisms and gut health are contributing factors to the quality of our skin.
No amount of topical solutions would help you overcome the chronic skin problems you may experience unless you take a look and try to focus on the condition of your gut health. Beauty literally comes from within.
2. You can’t seem to shed off unwanted pounds
You’ve been watching what you eat and making sure to exercise regularly. Yet no matter how hard you try, the excess pounds just don’t seem to want to go away. If you are overweight, chances are you have an unhealthy balance of intestinal bacteria.
You need more of the good bacteria in order to see positive results on your weight loss journey. Good gut bacteria in our intestines influence how we digest food. They affect the way our body absorbs nutrients and how we store energy.
3. You are stressed, anxious and depressed
In the study regarding the Brain-Gut-Skin theory mentioned earlier, the effect gut bacteria has on our skin health is connected to our emotions as well. Much like our brains, our intestinal walls are filled with nerves that release neurotransmitters responsible for making us feel good.
Have you ever wondered why there seem to be butterflies in your stomach whenever you feel anxious or stressed?
The vagus nerve connects our brain to our intestines. In moments of stress and anxiety, the brain sends signals to our gut which may make us feel as though we need to be comforted by our food cravings. In the same way, when we are hungry, our guts send signals to our brains which make us irritable and giddy.
A healthy balance of gut bacteria ensures a mentally balanced mind resulting in a better disposition.
4. You’ve developed an autoimmune disease
If you have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis or any other autoimmune disease, chances are you may have an unhealthy gut. Your inflammation levels have gone haywire due in part to improper balance of good and bad bacteria in your digestive tracts resulting in the “leaky gut” syndrome.
Good bacteria acts as a wall that protects our guts from foreign substances. When good gut bacteria is overcome by bad bacteria, it becomes harder to fight infections and easier to develop autoimmune diseases – that condition where your immune system attacks your own body.
5. You experience stomach disturbances
The most obvious warning sign of an unhealthy gut are the various instances when you experience heartburn, gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation. If you’ve experienced any of these on a regular basis, you know for certain that there is something wrong with your digestive systems.
The normal digestion of food from the time you take it into the time you excrete them is disrupted. Most of the time, these stomach disturbances become almost “normal” to you but disregarding them will result in the development of major diseases. It pays to listen to our guts.
How do you make sure you maintain a healthy gut? Eating the right foods certainly contribute to a healthy gut but sometimes it is not enough that we do this. Science has taught us what it is we need to eat in order for us to have healthy and well functioning digestive systems.
There are some other ways in which we can keep our guts healthy apart from eating the right food.
Take probiotics and prebiotics
The organisms or bacteria that live in our guts form a microsystem called a microbiome. They feed off of the food we take in. Depending on the kind of food we eat, we either nourish the bad bacteria or the good bacteria.
To maintain a healthy balance in this microbiome, it is essential that we give these organisms the foods they like or what we call prebiotics. At the same time, we also need to add living microbes or what we call probiotics to increase the population of good bacteria.
Prebiotics act as fertilizers that enhance the growth of good bacteria and can be found in many fruits and vegetables. They are what the good bacteria feed on to thrive. Probiotics are different in that they are live organisms or strains of bacteria that add directly to the number of good bacteria in our guts.
Some cultures have developed their own source of probiotic foods through naturally fermented foods. These include yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, tempeh or pickles. Including the live organisms contained in these foods in your daily diets will help you increase the population of good bacteria in your gut.
On the other hand, prebiotic foods include garlic, onion, leeks, dandelion greens, chicory root, asparagus and bananas among others. They are the food source for all the good bacteria already in our guts and help them thrive.
Determine your food sensitivities or intolerance
Truth is, no matter how healthy the food may be and how beneficial it is to maintain a good diet, some are just not good for our own personal body. We may be unaware that there are certain types of food which we have been consuming regularly that just might give us gut problems.
Food sensitivity and intolerance are most often undiagnosed. We would need to determine which foods we are sensitive to and which ones we cannot tolerate. A classic example is lactose intolerance which a lot of people suffer from.
Our food sensitivities and intolerance start from when we were babies. Our mother may have unwittingly passed it on to us. This is the reason why some babies may end up obese and have difficulty controlling their weight as they grow up.
To determine which foods you might be sensitive to and which ones you cannot tolerate, you would need to go through an elimination diet or consult a nutritionist.
Food sensitivity and intolerance are different from food allergies in that the symptoms for most sensitivities and intolerance triggers a delayed immune response and only manifest themselves after several days.
You may not even be aware that they have caused you several digestive issues. Reactions from a food allergy happen within minutes and may even be life threatening.
Repair your gut
The “leaky gut” syndrome is a major problem that affects gut health. Your gut barrier that acts as a defender from toxins, antigens, and bad bacteria need to be able to do its job of keeping nutrients in and all other bad stuff out.
If this barrier or wall doesn’t function properly, your body will not be able to absorb all the nutrients from the food you eat and may result in immune reactions and bad gut health.
Glutamine-rich foods such as bone broth will help you preserve the integrity of your gut wall and maximize nutrient absorption.
Intermittent fasting has become a trendy weight loss activity that may do more than just help you lose weight. It can actually improve the balance of good and bad bacteria in our guts.
Through intermittent fasting, our guts are able to take a break from digesting food and improve gut microbiomes in the process. Studies have shown this to be true. Fasting can be a powerful tool for us to reset our digestive systems and allow the good bacteria to dominate our guts which results in a healthier and disease resistant body.
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