Over the past decade, “gut health” conversations, understanding, and research have made headlines.
But what exactly is gut health and why is it so important?!
For starters, the gut is responsible for about 70% of our immune function. It delivers the nutrients from your food to your bloodstream. Plus, it communicates with your brain through nerves and hormones.
So it's a pretty big deal to have a healthy gut.
The gut is lined with over 100 million nerve cells that send signals controlling swallowing, digestion, nutrient absorption, and elimination. The entire process of food entering and exiting our body is largely controlled by our gut.
Next, the gut has between 300 and 500 different types of bacteria. These bacteria are often necessary and pertinent to good health; however, there can be an imbalance or overgrowth of bacteria that are harmful. That is huge!
If our gut is not kept in check, we can become sick more easily and perpetuate the cycle by not actually healing the source... the gut!
So, what causes these alterations in the delicate balance of bacteria within our gut?
While unpopular to point out, but true, some prescribers are giving patients antibiotics for issues that do not warrant their use.
This is harmful because antibiotics kill off good bacteria, not just the bad.... which can lead to an imbalanced gut...
But if you have to take an antibiotic, it is recommended to take a probiotic and/or eat probiotic rich foods while on antibiotics and after you finish your dose to counteract these effects.
So let's talk probiotics.
Make sure to pick a reputable brand that is shelf stable, has a high CFU count, recognized bacteria strains backed by clinical studies, and formulated by physicians. Avoid unique strains that are not backed by clinical studies and products that claim they must be refrigerated.
What else can we do to keep our gut healthy?
First, get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is so important to our overall health and a lack of sleep can wreak havoc on the gut.
Second, keep stress at bay by walking, exercising, hanging out with friends and family, or getting a massage.
Third, be sure and drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your gut functioning well.
Fourth, take a prebiotic as well as a probiotic. Think of a prebiotic as food for the probiotic. The probiotic contains the good, live bacteria, and prebiotic feeds it.
Lastly, try to eat probiotic rich foods like kombucha, greek yogurt, sauerkraut, sourdough bread. Food is the best medicine!
Go with your gut!
Most importantly, when it comes to gut health, go with your gut! If something works for you, do that. If certain foods seem to trigger GI issues, avoid those. There is not a one-size-fits-all answer, but everyone should be invested in keeping their gut at its best!