When we hear about a healthy lifestyle we usually hear that we should eat healthy foods to achieve optimum health, but we barely hear about how important is to have a healthy gut to function, feel, and succeed well in life. Gut health is the secret key to physical and mental health and today I will be talking about what is gut health, what you need to know about it, what are the symptoms of not having a healthy gut, and how you can reach your best ever healthy gut.
People usually see the GI tract as a place where food gets digested and then throw out but the scientist has discovered that the GI system has actually a bigger and way more complex job than just digesting food. Your GI tract is also linked with your overall health, your moods, your immunity health, and chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and cancer.
Your gut homes your immune system and trillions of bacteria that help to process foods help maintain homeostasis, and overall well-being. Your gut microbiome can be affected by your environment, food options, and behavior.
“Healthy gut, happy gal.”
How Does Digestion work?
Eating the right food is very important because your body will break down the food you consume, find its nutrients, divide it into groups, decide where each nutrient will go, and send them to the right places. But when you consume meals that have no nutrient at all your organs won’t have what it needs to work and therefor illness will start to show up.
Our digestive system: – Is about 26 feet long and goes from the mouth to the anus. – It brings in the food and processes it. – It gives physical and chemical barriers against pathogens. – it detoxifies potential harmful substances and excretes waste. – It contains the “second brain” know as the enteric nervous system. – It secrets hormones and helps process others. – It helps to regulate your immune system. – It’s innervated by nerves also involved in social engagement and emotion, giving you important (often instinctive and subconscious) signals about the world and how you feel.
Your Brain and Your Gut Are Linked Directly
Your digestive system is controlled by your automatic nervous system (ANS) which regulates your internal organs without you being conscious of it, you don’t have any control of it. The ANS is divided into two branches: - The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) which is our “fight or flight” system - The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is your “rest and digest” system. Your GI tract reacts to these two systems, your SNS and PNS signals. When your SNS is activated by intense activities, stimulation, or stress, it shuts down your digestion and appetite. Your mouth goes dry, you stop eating food and your GI tract stops moving through the system and you get “butterflies in your stomach. Your PNS system gets activated by rest and relaxation, this regulates your digestion and movement through your GI tract so that things proceed steadily and calmly. However in some situations such as extreme fear or trauma, once your SNS response has been used to exhaustion, the PNS might also get activated. This means that your digestion CAN be affected by your internal signals such as what's happening elsewhere in your body as well as for environmental such as all of the outside stressors. In other words what you think, feel, see, the smell can affect your appetite, your hunger, your fullness, and overall your health.
Your Gut Homes Microbiome
The microbiome is an ecosystem that lives inside your stomach that contains bacteria, good and bad bacteria. The good bacteria, probiotics, makes you feel happy, it lowers inflammation and fights sugar cravings. Basically, if your mood is off then you know that your microbiome is off. Now, everybody’s microbiome is different, but there are a few things and signs that can tell if your microbiome is off. There are different things that affect your variation of the microbiome, it can be starting from your birth to how you were raised. Studies had shown that babies that are born vaginally grow up to have a higher diversity of microbiomes because they get exposure to different bacteria as they passed through the birth canal. Also, it’s been proven that kids who play outside, get their hands in the dirt, and play with pets can strengthen their microbiomes. Medications can also affect your microbiome, these can be over-the-counter painkillers, and any other drug to treat psychiatric conditions, diabetes, and acid reflux. Antibiotics can not only kill your bad bacteria but they can also mess up with your good ones and can make people develop allergies, more susceptible to infections, and have motility issues. It is important to make sure you use them when really necessary while taking second measures on hand to keep your gut bacteria thriving and to not overdose. We all need a good variety of bacteria, an unhealthy person has much less diversity of bacteria and there seems to be an increase of bacteria associated with the disease. When the gut works as it should be working, it will keep the good and bad bacteria on point, where they should be naturally. But when you don’t keep your gut healthy and mess up with its natural order, inflammatory bacteria can take over, spreading inflammation to other parts of your body. Bad bacteria has been linked to lower immune function, it also has been linked to asthma, allergies, chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and some types of cancers. It has also been linked to anxiety, depression, and neurological conditions such as schizophrenia and dementia. If you haven’t guessed it yet, your gut health also has a strong link between and healthy lean body or an overweight one, following with all the health problems that obesity brings to the table. Foods high in sugar, high in fat, cigarettes, excessive alcohol, and drugs also affect your gut health and influence the gut in a negative way allowing bad bacteria to grow. They can grow and colonize more easily so you need to be careful of feeding them too much. Bad bacteria can also cause you to absorb more calories. Foods treated with pesticides such as roundup can also have a negative effect on your gut bacteria, and antibiotics can cause permanent changes in certain types of bacteria, especially when ingested during childhood and adolescence.
How To Know If There’s a Problem?
Lucky for you your body has many ways to speak to you and tell you when something is wrong, but it is very important that you keep a healthy lifestyle because signs do not always show up and it can be a little late when we finally find out.
Some signs of an unhealthy gut are:
Poor immune system
Acne or skin issues
Is important to do constant Dr. checkups and keep a regular healthy diet since not all signs show up on time such as cancers.
Tracking Gut Problems
There are three steps you should follow to identifying any gut health problems, these are:
– Start elimination process
– Keep a journal
– Start the addition process
The elimination process is when you start eliminating foods that you think are causing a problem and all the foods that are proven to be allergenic, addictive, and non-healthy such as:
-Wheat (bread, pasta, cereals)
– Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurts, and butter)
– Process foods (boxed and packaged, pre-manufactured, fast food, and frozen dinners)
– Process sugars
– Artificial colors and flavorings
The next step to start journaling to keep track of everything and see things and signs you didn’t notice before. Sometimes you feel one way one day and days later you felt it again but didn’t notice that it was because those days you consume a certain food. When you keep a journal you will see patterns in moods, health issues, and meals that are harming your health.
Things to keep track of should be:
– Mood, this goes from happy, energized to sad, tired, etc.
– Any health issues such as low energy, fatigue, constipation, cravings, allergies, etc.
– Every food is eaten. This will show you what foods are the ones that could be harming your health and you should never consume them again.
Last you can start the addition process by adding whole natural foods such as legumes, fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds. Allergenic foods such as gluten should be added little by little allowing three to five days in between each addition, this means that the process can take weeks or even months but it will be worth it in the long run. As soon as you add a food keep it in your journal and write your mood and health whenever you consume a food that your body does not love, you will notice the difference and decide if you want to cut it off your diet or not.
Healthy Living In A Glance
Now that we are adding meals to our diet, the next question could be: What should I eat and how much? Well, relax because here we go. The first thing you need to do is to start hydrating yourself, water is critical for optimal physiological function and healthy living. If you forget to get your water then you can download an app that will notify you when it is time to drink your water or set an alarm for every two to three hours.
Forget about skipping meals, meals are the key to health and if you don’t eat regularly then problems will come back. If you are a super busy mom like me Arbonne offers an amazing meal replacement shake that will give you all the nutrients, fiber, and satisfaction you need to get your health at its best. I usually go for the shake at lunchtime or breakfast and then have a succulent dinner with my kids.
You can shop your shake at: www.stephaniellopez.arbonne.com or DM for more information.
The next thing to keep in mind when preparing your meals is to serve what you need and in the right proportions. Your veggies and fruits should be half of your plate, and these can be leafy greens, and a variety of color vegetables (red, orange, white, purple, and yellow). Legumes are great sources of protein without any cholesterol, extra calories, or health issues that meat brings. I love chickpeas, black beans, and pink beans and they should be a fourth of your plate.
Next will be… and wait for it…. it should be CARBS! Carbs are not the enemy girl, is the amount that we eat of it. You should opt for an eight to no more than a fourth or your plait of carbs, they are your body’s favorite source of energy to bring them to the table. I love sweet potatoes, carrots, quinoa, brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta. Last but not less important is adding a tablespoon or two of healthy fats. Your body needs them especially if you are trying to lose weight so go ahead and add some nuts, seeds, or avocados to your meals and you are good to go.
Another great thing you can add to help your microbiome are probiotics, prebiotics, and enzymes. Now I will be honest with you, I never heard about prebiotics until two months ago, and even then did not get curious about it until now and I am happy I did this blog because I thought I knew what I needed to knew until I decided to write about prebiotics.
Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that are found in certain foods or supplements and lives in your gut and gives numerous health benefits to your body while prebiotics is the food ( certain types of carbs high in fiber) for these bacteria, so basically they kind of sound similar but are two totally different things. Probiotics are found on fortified non-dairy yogurts, kombucha, and supplements however this last one is the less recommended one.
Prebiotics can be found naturally in certain foods because they are fiber types found in vegetables, fruits, and legumes. These types of fiber are not digestible by humans but your good gut bacteria can digest them. Prebiotic fiber can be found in beans, peas, oats, bananas, berries, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, dandelion greens, garlic, leeks, and onions.
Enzymes are a special kind of protein that is found in the cells of living organisms. Enzymes help with processes like digestion, blood clotting, hormone production, catalyzation or speed up chemical reactions. However, each enzyme can only do one type of chemical reaction, which means that you need to consume all 6 different types of enzymes. They make reactions happen, they are the last push up you need to keep going.
Even though there are six main types of enzymes, they help to speed up oxidation, reduce reactions, help atoms to transfer molecules to other molecules, break peptide bonds in proteins, rearrange atoms, they help breakdown foods, convert food into energy, breaks down starch, lactose, and pectin-rich foods. Some foods rich in digestive enzymes are pineapple, papaya, mango, bananas, avocados, sauerkrout, kimchi, miso, kiwi, and ginger.
Not a big fruits and veggies person? Not taking your entire recommended servings of foods? Don’t worry I get there too, between three kids and a business I can forget about eating sometimes or simply don’t have the time to eat, but I always make sure to add my Arbonne digestion plus where I take the time to care for my digestive system every day! This mild powder has soothing notes of ginger and chamomile and delivers prebiotics, 3 billion CFU of probiotics, and enzymes to help support optimal digestive function. All you have to do is
add 1 stick pack to 4 oz. of cold/room temperature liquid and stir. I love to add them to my smoothies or drink them with water on an empty stomach in the mornings.