Today we will be answering the most frequently asked question of all time related to a healthy gut!
What is the secret to a happy, healthy gut?
Our sedentary lifestyles and poor diet lead to disturbed gut health. The majority of the population are several with some or the other co-morbidities. Be it diabetes, hypertension, acidity, migraine, or fatty liver, all are partially or entirely related to our diet and lifestyle. Our gut health is related to all these co-morbidities. Improving gut health should be a priority, thus today we are here to learn about how you can have the best gut health and improve your quality of life.
Gut health is controlled by several factors. Some of the factors are diet, lifestyle, sleep, stress, medications, and many more. To maintain a healthy gut, one needs to have a holistic approach to improve their life. Including dietary and lifestyle recommendations by the nutritionist can immensely better gut health. The gut is largely associated with the health of the other organs in the body. Several studies have proven the relationship between gut and liver, gut and brain. All in all, the gut is associated with the overall well-being of the body.
One of the crucial factors that look at intestinal health is the composition of the gut bacteria.
What are the different types of gut bacteria?
The gut microbiome comprises fungi, bacteria, viruses, protozoa, archaea, and many other trillions of micro-organisms that contribute to the compounds produced in the gut while utilizing the food we consume. The good and bad microbes are together called GUT MICROBIOME.
The good or beneficial bacteria utilize specific foods that we eat and produce substances that can benefit us in the intestine or are absorbed and can benefit us at various organ sites – eg the liver and the brain.
The bad or harmful substances that harm us at the level of the intestines or at the organ level after absorption.
What is the role of gut bacteria in the body?
- Gut bacteria contribute to digestion by fermentation and breaking down food.
- Adequate numbers of beneficial bacteria prevent the growth of harmful bacteria thereby controlling infections.
- Immune system regulation: Beneficial microorganisms regulate the immune system in the intestines. They also release immune protective compounds.
- Release of beneficial compounds: Beneficial bacteria release compounds that have various functions to better metabolism like reduction of cholesterol and reduction of inflammation
- It is linked with serotonin release, which helps in mood regulation.
- The good microbiota helps in maintaining intestinal pH and providing a favoring environment for minerals to be digested and absorbed
Above mentioned benefits contributed by the gut are not just restricted to gut health, but also the health of other organs
Why is gut health important for overall well-being?
- The health of the liver, kidney, brain, and lungs are now studied to be related to the gut microbiome.
- The compounds released by the microbiome meet the bloodstream and follow the path to the entire body.
- It also produces vitamin K that are essential for the blood coagulation process. It maintains homeostasis and prevents several health diseases.
- Vitamin B 12 is highly limited in vegetarian sources. The synthesis of Vitamin B12 in the intestine by bacteria is one of the sources of it in vegetarian diets.
What is the gut-brain connection and how does it affect mental health?
- The brain is directly connected with your gut, and vice versa. What you eat impacts your mental health, similarly how stressful you are impacts your gut health.
- Many suffer from constipation, diarrhea, acidity, or gut discomfort when they stressful situations. (Cortisol hormone released in stressful situations impacts the entire physiological functions).
- The gut releases several compounds and hormones that reach the brain through the bloodstream. It can impact thoughts and behavior as well as be the cause of mental disorders in the long run!
Now that we understand how our gut functions, let us understand how to nurture our gut microbiome. To improve our digestion, reduce inflammation and improve our immunity. One needs to adopt a holistic approach toward health. Not just diet, but complete lifestyle modification is required.
Let us simply list down the pointers for you to remember :
1. Consume probiotic-rich foods.
Probiotics are the friendly bacteria present in foods that are beneficial for the gut. It improves the good and bad gut microbe ratio. Natural sources of probiotics are yoghurt, curd, buttermilk, lassi, fermented rice/rawa/ragi kanji, beetroot kanji (drink), kefir milk, low salt/oil pickles. Further, there are several studies indicating the benefits of fermenting millet in water/milk. Among all the probiotic options at least one of them should be included in the daily diet for best results.
- It is beneficial for reducing gut distress, bloating, acidity, and indigestion-like symptoms.
- It helps in fighting off the bad pathogens surviving in the gut.
- It helps in producing immuno-protective compounds.
Are there any risks or precautions associated with probiotic foods?
Over-fermented products can cause distress, and acidity to the body. It can lead to indigestion and bloating leading to unwanted gas production. Remember to consume fermented items in not less than 1-2 days.
2. Include prebiotics along with your probiotics.
A combination of both pro and prebiotics cannot get better for your tummy! Prebiotics are the food sources for bacteria, so they can survive better and provide much relief to one suffering from gut issues. Prebiotics are nothing but carbohydrates in the form of fiber. Fermented millets are a great source of both probiotics and prebiotics.
Can I get enough prebiotics from my regular diet? –of course! A good diet with adequate variety will be a good source of prebiotics.
Soluble and insoluble both types of fiber can act as a prebiotic – which means the inclusion of whole grains in every meal, plenty of vegetables, and adequate fruits. Good bacteria love these foods. Bananas, dried berries, oats, garlic, asparagus, mushrooms, starchy veggies, leafy vegetables, jowar, bajra, and amaranth, whole pulses like moong and chole are all great sources of prebiotics. These foods should be added to your recipes along with the regular foods.
3. Popping pills destroy the good bacteria in the gut.
- Any medication you take should be prescribed by the physician.
- If there is a long-term medication, do speak to your doctor and the nutritionist regarding how it will impact your gut. Collectively one can avoid any deficiency or negative impact of medications.
- Further consumption of OTC medications for symptoms like self-diagnosed allergies, and acidity can negatively impact the gut microbiota.
- Prolonged use of antibiotics can kill the gut microbiota and lead to diarrhea, constipation-like issues.
- Always check how long a medication is to be taken and consult your physician for a fresh prescription.
4. Sleep is an underrated medicine for all problems!
- Having a fixed schedule for sleep improves your quality of life exponentially.
- Having a regular consistent sleep schedule can keep your hormones in place, help the body heal, and develop good microbes while you rest with good food in your tummy.
- Sleep deprivation can negatively rise all your stress hormones and deplete most of your good bacteria.
- Sleep deprivation is one of the causes of indigestion, irregular bowel, acidity, or migraine-like issues.
5. Prevent the growth of bad bacteria in the gut?
- Limit sugar: Harmful bacteria and fungi love sugar. Candida a common fungus found in the gut ferments the sugar and thrives while causing havoc to health. Harmful bacteria ferment sugar and grow fats thus competing with beneficial bacteria.
- Limit processed foods: Processed foods usually do not contain adequate fiber that the beneficial bacteria thrive on. Thus it encourages the growth of the non-beneficial bacteria
- Regulate fat consumption: While fat is very much required for health, consumption of high fat either in specific meals or a total intake can increase the growth of harmful bacteria. This effect is more pronounced if the fat s the unhealthy kind – an excess of butter, cream, ghee, fat from red meat, or trans fats (the kind present in fried foods and processed foods)
- Regulate protein consumption: Whilst protein is an important nutrient, overconsumption of protein from animal sources – especially meat can increase the growth of harmful bacteria with adverse effects – from bloating and flatulence at the lower end of the spectrum to intestinal inflammation to colon cancer at the upper end of the spectrum.
Does stress reduction and a good lifestyle better gut health?
Oh! You bet it does!
Physical activity and managing your stress well are the priority in today’s times. You might wonder how mental health can impact gut health? But the answer is clear and deep-rooted in your lifestyle. Include:
- 7 -8 hours of sleep
- Periods of rest and relaxation
- Daily exercise and increased physical activity.
- Avoid/Limit harmful substances
- Treat yourself to stress management – from friendships, and family to counselling and therapy – coping with stress is an extremely important element to bettering gut health.
What lifestyle habits can improve gut health?
These are some tactics to tackle stress and improve lifestyle-
- Walking and jogging, yoga, or some activity everyday
- Pursuing hobbies
- Keeping yourself hydrated (2.5-liter fluid every day- for normal adults)
- Indulging in spiritual or community work
- Spending time with family and good friends
- Having a confidant or visiting the therapist to cope with stress.
- Incorporating veggies and fruits in a daily diet can ensure a good amount of fiber, and prebiotics in the body.
- The traditional Indian diet consists of Millets, buttermilk, kanji, fresh pickles, various grains, and a lot of seasonal veggies and fruits. Diversification of diet is required to introduce all essential nutrients to the body.
- Nourish with a positive attitude, diverse wholesome diet, and a good healthy lifestyle
If you follow these 5 rules religiously, you will slowly see the improvement yourself. A multidisciplinary approach with the help of a nutritionist can help you achieve the best health for your gut. Improving your gut health will slowly help you balance your hormones. There will be improvement in skin health as well. Inflammation will reduce, and the risks of several co-morbidities will decrease.
Absorption of several vitamins and minerals will improve with better gut health. Your mental health improves with better gut health, it all starts with what you choose for yourself. Pick the healthiest ways to nourish your body, you will never be disappointed.
“The price of prevention is always less than the price to cure the body from the damage”
Write to us at nutritionwithvibha.com for any queries, questions, or need for consultations.