It's a 'gut' feeling! Poor digestive health can affect physical, mental AND emotional health! Read on as we reveal what YOUR gut says about your health?
Have you experienced an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach when you are nervous, stressed or sense that something is going to happen? Do you sometimes feel like you have ‘butterflies’ in your stomach? Do certain situations like speaking in front of a crowd, going for an interview, exam or visiting the dentist make you want to throw up, make a bee-line to the toilet or get stomach cramps? If you’ve ever reacted like this, there is actually a good reason why. Did you know that the gut and brain are connected?
Research shows that the digestive tract, the stomach, small intestine, colon and esophagus, all influence the way our mind and body functions. This is known as the Gut-Brain Axis. It’s no wonder the gut is referred to as the second brain!
We take a look at what your gut reveals about your health.
Can your gut cause depression and anxiety?
It may be difficult to believe, but the health of your digestive system may actually have a role to play in the development of depression, anxiety and even headaches and migraines!
For instance, a condition called Leaky Gut Syndrome can cause depression, anxiety and migraines due to an imbalance in the Gut-Brain Axis. Leaky Gut Syndrome refers to a condition where the cells lining the small intestine become compromised due to a variety of causes, including poor diet, prescription medication (including antibiotics), alcohol, or caffeine. This can affect digestion and result in partially digested food being absorbed, causing inflammation which in turn can interfere in systemic health, including psychological and brain health, as well as immune functioning.
In addition, an imbalance in the digestive system can result in an overgrowth of systemic candida, not only causing outbreaks of thrush, athletes foot, ‘jock itch’ and nail fungus – but also depression, fatigue, weight gain and may other problems!
Inside your gut
We’ve mentioned that the gut and the brain are interconnected – when one is happy, the other is happy and vice versa AND when one is upset, the other becomes upset too. The gut contains hundreds of millions of nerve cells – more than in the spinal cord or peripheral nervous system! This ‘second brain’ therefore has its own senses and reflexes and is able to control how the gut behaves. It sends the brain information and signals which influence our emotional, mental and physical responses.
As Hippocrates so aptly stated, all diseases begin in the gut. Poor digestive health can cause disorders such as constipation, diarrhea, IBS, GERD, candida, food allergies, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, celiac disease or Crohn’s disease, but did you know that it can also lead to psychological and neurological problems?
The guts role in the immune system
Did you know that your digestion plays a vital role in your body’s immune response? It is not only important to your emotional and mental health but the gut works together with the immune system to protect you from foreign invaders. Approximately 90% of bacteria is living inside the gut and if that gut bacteria is balanced, then so is your immune system.
Basically, the health of your gut and immune system are linked. If your gut is out of sync, your immune system will be too! An imbalance of bacteria in your gut will create an environment for an overgrowth of yeast, fungus and mould. When this happens, the body’s immune system weakens and becomes susceptible to colds and flu, chronic sinusitis, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, cramping, IBS, inflammation, food and seasonal allergies.
In addition, may people who have been on a course of antibiotics will develop a bout of thrush. This is because antibiotics upset the balance in the gut, thereby allowing an overgrowth of candida in the system. Instead of antibiotics, consider natural alternatives such as Immunity Plus by Feelgood Health, containing a selection of herbs with antiviral and antibacterial properties, without harming gut health.
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How to take care of our gut
There are a number of things that you can do take proper care of your gut and prevent digestive disorders.
- Drink more water
Improve your gut health by keeping your body hydrated – drink more water! Drinking more water helps to dissolve fats and soluble fiber which allows these substances to pass through easily, thereby promoting healthier gut function.
2. Eat whole, unrefined foods
Incorporate foods that are high in fiber and rich in whole grains into your daily diet. More fibre in the diet keeps food moving through your digestive tract making you more regular and less constipated. Add veggies, legumes, fruit, nuts and seeds to prevent and treat digestive conditions as well as to maintain a healthy weight.
3. Avoid sugar
If you have a problem gut, remove sugar from your diet. Gut bacteria thrives on sugar, which leads to digestive problems such as bloating. Refined sugars such as table sugar and high fructose corn syrup are culprits to be aware of. Cut down on fizzy drinks, fruit juice, energy drinks, low fat foods as well as starches such as white rice, potatoes and corn syrup, which are all damaging for your gut heath.
4. Consume naturally fermented foods
Fermented foods contain high amounts of good bacteria which is beneficial for digestive health. In order to re-establish the balance of good bacteria back into your system, add foods such as yoghurt, buttermilk, sour cream, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, fermented pickles or kimchi to your daily diet. Add a probiotic supplement if fermented foods don’t appeal to your palate. This will encourage healthy bacteria back into your body and help to prevent digestive problems.
5. Reduce foods that are high in fat
Limit foods that are high in fat as they slow down the digestive process leading to constipation and other digestive issues. Remove bad fats such as seed-based cooking oils (vegetable oil, canola oil, corn or soybean oil) and replace with healthier alternatives such as butter, coconut or olive oil.
6. Eat meals and snacks on schedule
Nutritionists recommend that you eat meals and snacks on a regular schedule to maintain a healthy digestive system. Make a concerted effort to sit down to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and have snacks at the same time during the day – in this way you are training your gut to be healthier too!
7. Exercise regularly
By now we all know that exercise is good for your overall health but it’s really beneficial for your digestive system. Regular exercise keeps food moving through the body and helps to prevent digestive problems like constipation and bloating. Work out at least three times per week and watch your digestive system work and feel better!
8. Eliminate alcohol and smoking
Excessive alcohol and smoking can exacerbate digestive problems such as ulcers, heartburn and acid reflux. If alcohol and smoking is interfering with your gut health, it would be best to skip the bad habits.
9. Manage stress levels
Anxiety and stress can cause unnecessary distress to the gut. Relax and learn to be good to yourself by reducing your stress levels. Take time out to do things that you enjoy to keep yourself stress-free and calm. A calmer you will mean a calmer, happier digestive system!
10. Use natural remedies
Instead of rushing for antacids and other conventional medicines for digestive problems, rather supplement your digestive health with natural solutions to function more efficiently. In the Feelgood Health range, there are a number of natural remedies to improve digestion and these include:
- Gastronic Dr – a herbal remedy which promotes digestive system health and functioning, soothes the stomach lining and prevents acid reflux, gastritis, IBS, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and diverticulosis
- Natural Moves – a natural laxative to relieve constipation, promote healthy bowel movements and keep you regular
- Triple Complex Digestion Tonic – contains a selection of tissue salts to promote healthy digestion for anyone with digestive orders and complaints
- Immunity Plus – natural immune booster which acts as a general tonic and antibiotic alternative and assists with quick recovery after illness
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As you can see, it is vital to keep your gut and immune system in good working condition for overall health and happiness. Remember, a happy gut means a happier YOU!