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Is My Gut Healthy?

Grace Aguirre, MS, RD
4
March 20, 2020

You may have heard in recent conversations or perhaps in recent health news about the importance of having a “healthy gut.” Some of the most most common conditions claimed to be strongly associated with gut health include:

  • Mood 
  • Energy
  • Skin
  • Joints
  • Metabolism
  • Sleep
  • Immune function
  • Hormone balance
  • Thyroid health

The truth is, there is a large amount of scientific evidence to support these claims! It sounds a little crazy to link all of these issues to your gut, but it makes a little more sense when you start to understand what it means to have a healthy and unhealthy gut.

About the Gut

Your “gut” is the term referring to your digestive tract, primarily the small and the large intestine. 

In the past, we were taught that “germs are bad” and that we need to protect ourselves from them. Only in recent years have we really begun embracing the fact that we depend on them for good health! Germs include microscopic living structures such as bacteria. They are also referred to as “microbes.” 

Microbes are called pathogens when they are harmful to our health. “Bad bacteria” is an example of a pathogen. “Good bacteria” can also act as a pathogen if it begins growing in the wrong part of the body. However, our digestive tracts, including our mouths and intestine, are supposed to be full of microbes and we actually cannot survive without their presence. 

What does it mean to have a “healthy gut?

When your gut is healthy:

  • It is full of many different types of “good” microbes.
  • Your large intestine has the majority of your microbiome (collection of microbes).
  • Your small intestine has only a small portion of your gut microbes
  • You are able to digest your food all the way.
  • No pain or discomfort when digesting your food.
  • You do not have diarrhea, constipation or bloating.
  • The lining of your intestines is not inflamed and cell bonds are strong.
  • No particles can leak in between the cells that line your intestines. 

When your gut is unhealthy:

  • There is not enough variety in your gut microbiome.
  • The microbiome might overgrow in the small intestine. 
  • There may be an overgrowth of a pathogen.
  • Inability to digest food all the way, resulting in undigested food in stool
  • The lining of your intestines may be irritated and inflamed. 
  • You may experience pain or discomfort in your abdomen area.
  • You may have diarrhea, constipation or boating. 
  • “Leaky gut” may occur (toxic particles may leak between cell lining into the bloodstream.

You may have symptoms throughout the body such as:

  • skin issues
  • sleep issues
  • weight troubles
  • joint pain
  • weak immune system
  • joint pain
  • brain fog (difficulty concentrating)
  • poor mood

What to do to optimize my gut health? 

You can begin improving or maintaining good gut health by first focusing on making your self healthy overall. Your microbiome depends on the host (you) to be healthy in order to flourish. It is important to not neglect any areas of your life! This includes physical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual.

For generally good health, aim to:

  • Get enough sleep (~7-9hrs per day)
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Eat a balanced diet rich in a variety of whole, natural foods
  • Exercise daily to increase heart rate for at least 30 min 5 days/week
  • Avoid consuming harmful substances that upset the gut
  • Tap into your spiritual life
  • Maintain an active social life- small gatherings, regular chats with friends & family
  • Reduce stress by focussing on the joys in life 

If you are worried about your gut health, don't worry too much, there are many ways we can help revamp your gut with healthy bacterial supplements and food. Talk with your Doctor and Dietitian to see if supplementation or a slight diet change is right for you.

Stay happy and healthy! From your health team!