5 reasons you should be listening to your gut

5 reasons you should be listening to your gut

The mighty microbiota

Site: Yeong Sassall

Image: Louise Cavanough

It might surprise you to learn that our gut is the epicenter of our health. Good gut health not only determines our digestion and absorption of nutrients, but our vitality, immunity, mental health and risk of chronic disease, says nutritionist Louise Cavanough

The gut is a breeding ground for trillions of microbes, both friend and foe, known as the gut microbiota. This population of microorganisms can weigh up to 2 kilograms and, much like our fingerprints, is unique to each of us.

This dynamic ecosystem interacts with its host in a complex manner known as the gut-brain axis. This interaction makes gut health pivotal to issues such as anxiety, depression and the stress response. Interestingly, the majority of serotonin (the neurotransmitter in charge of making us feel happy) is synthesised in the gut.

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Even more astonishingly, 70 per cent of our immune system also resides in the gut. Known as gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) and located just below the mucosal lining, the GALT is responsible for red flagging any bad guys passing through the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) and triggering an immune response.

A healthy gut will contain a ratio of roughly 80/20 good to bad bacteria. This balance keeps the bad guys under control and allows the friendly flora to get on with all of their valuable work. This balance can be thrown out by a poor diet, stress, antibiotics and everyday toxins, resulting in dysbiosis and gut dysfunction. Left untreated, this will eventually lead to inflammation and chronic disease.

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So, if you want to improve your digestion, enhance mental clarity, feel calmer, happier and strengthen immunity, it's time to start focusing on rebuilding your gut health. Here are five tips for maintaining good gut health.

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1. Take a good quality, multi-strain probiotic supplement first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.

2. Include fermented food and drinks in your diet - fermented foods are easily digestible and their nutrients highly bioavailable. Look for raw, unpasteurised sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and kefirs in your local health food store.

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3. Include prebiotics in your diet - prebiotics act as the food for our friendly flora. Try adding a teaspoon of slippery elm to your smoothie and including prebiotic containing raw vegies such as dandelion greens, garlic, leek and onions in your diet.

4. Hydrate - water is essential for keeping waste moving efficiently through the GIT which keeps the good bacteria happy.

5. Cut down on sugar and processed foods - these foods provide a fertile playground for bad bacteria to flourish.

Take care of your gut and it will take care of you! 

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