Have you ever woken up with an uneasy feeling of bloating that lasted for some days, and consuming your meals became a burden because you feared indigestion? To make matters worse, you feel constipated. Does your system seem to be intolerant of certain foods?
Have you been constantly fatigued, even when you are idle? You are pondering where you have exerted all your energy, and you blame ageing for slowing you down? Do you have trouble sleeping even when nothing is bothering you?
Okay, don’t get scared; you are already on the healing path if you read this. It’s possible that you need to check your gut health if you’ve tried addressing the symptoms, but they persist. The gut is the centre of everything in the body. We are talking about digestion, mental health, autoimmunity, skin issues, chronic pain, hormones, metabolism and more, but before we delve further, what is your idea of gut health?
Gut health refers to the balance of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract. Looking after the health of the gut and maintaining the right balance of these microorganisms is vital for immunity, physical and mental health, e.t.c.
It’s common knowledge that our guts house both good and harmful bacteria. Good bacteria help digest food, absorb nutrients and maintain the delicate inner lining of the intestines. In contrast, harmful bacteria is linked with diseases ranging from depression, diabetics, obesity and even cancer.
Recent research reveals our gut plays a critical role in our immunity, housing an astonishing 70% of our immune cells and a sophisticated ecosystem of over 90 trillion friendly bacteria vital to supporting our immunity and producing and digesting our nutrients. A healthy intestinal system is crucial to the health of our entire body!
SIGNS OF AN UNHEALTHY GUT
- Upset stomach (bloating, constipation, diarrhoea and heartburn)
- Skin conditions (acne, eczema, psoriasis )
- Weight gain
- Autoimmune conditions
- Sleep disturbances
- Mood swing
Now you know the signs of an unhealthy gut. Let’s look at the causes of an unhealthy gut.
- People develop gut imbalances from several years of consuming antibiotics that are now creating an autoimmune reaction
- Frequent intake of a low-fibre diet
- High consumption of sugary and over-processed food
- Increased consumption of some dairy products
- Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement
D.I.Y HEALTH CHECK FOR THE GUT AT HOME
Transit time: You can test your transit time by consuming a food marker like red beetroot (1 cup) or corn kernel. Record when you eat the food marker and see the food marker on your stool. The difference is your transit time. Ideally, it would be between 12 and 24 hours.
Frequency measurement: Keep a detailed record to see how often you have a bowel movement. Ideally, you should have at least one complete bowel movement a day.
- Check the colour of your stool. Any shade of brown is a good sign.
- Check if your poop is floating. This can be a sign of food intolerances, infections, or pancreatic and gallbladder diseases.
- Check if there’s undigested food on your stool. That’s a sign of enzyme deficiency and intestinal inflammation.
- Check for signs of mucus; this is a sign of inflammation and infections.
- Check for pathogens like parasites that show dysbiosis.
THE SNIFF TEST:
Poop normally smells. However, pay attention to noticeable smell changes, showing fat malabsorption, parasites, and toxin build-up.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR GUT HEALTH
- Test yourself first, don’t guess.
- Visit your health provider and take medications prescribed by your health care provider.
- Limit antibiotics consumption if possible
- Monitor and minimise or avoid foods that trigger gut health issues
- Eliminate processed food from your diet
- Exercise regularly and increase the intensity of your workout as your body can tolerate
- Minimise stress as much as possible
- Avoid dehydration and ensure you hydrate well throughout the day
- Rest well and get high-quality sleep
Three food classes that can help you improve your gut health
Fiber is the fuel for the colon cells. It helps to keep the digestive tract flowing by keeping your bowel movements soft and regular. Eating a well-balanced diet rich in fiber every day helps to increase the number of good bacteria in your colon.
Sources of fiber include vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, beans, lentils, etc.
Prebiotics aids digestion as food travels through your gut and feeds the beneficial bacteria living in your large intestine.
Probiotics comprise good bacteria that help keep your body healthy and working well. These good bacteria help you by supporting immune function and controlling inflammation by fighting off harmful bacteria when you have too much of it, helping you feel better. Probiotics can be found in yoghurt and some fermented foods.
On a final note, food is medicine, food is information, and food is healing! We should be deliberate about everything we consume, and we should ensure our diet is balanced and meets our nutritional requirements.