Gut health refers to the balance of the trillions of microorganisms that live in and amongst our gut lining. Many of these bacteria are beneficial and even essential for our physical wellbeing, as they assist in capturing heavy metals, digesting foods, secreting hormones and producing vitamins. Other types of bacteria can be harmful to our health by disrupting the delicate ecosystem of our gut biome.
A healthy gut doesn’t just affect the physical body, it plays a major role in our mental health too. Did you know that over 90% of the body’s feel-good compound serotonin is made in the digestive tract? When the gut is unhealthy, serotonin production is greatly reduced which can cause mood swings, anxiety, insomnia and even depression. Healthy gut bacteria release neurochemicals that tell the brain to regulate important mental processes. When these neurochemicals are not released properly it can negatively affect our ability to learn, remember and focus.
Signs of an unhealthy gut include stomach issues such as bloating, heartburn and gas. When the gut flora is unbalanced it may also cause skin irritation, fatigue, weight changes, autoimmune conditions and food intolerances.
Luckily, there are many ways to naturally support your gut and promote the growth of healthy bacteria through diet, supplements, dental care and proper sleep. Read on to discover eight powerful ways to improve your gut health.
Eat Fermented Foods
Adding more fermented foods to your diet provides a quick and powerful way to support healthy microbes in the gut. Fermenting is a process in which microorganisms convert carbs or sugars into acids. This process promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria called probiotics, and often a special type of bacteria called lactobacilli. These ‘good bacteria’ help to reduce inflammation, support digestion, and limit the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut.
Fermented foods to add to your diet include:
You can pick up fermented products from most health food stores, or for a more cost-effective alternative, you can choose to make your own fermented foods at home
Eliminate Artificial Sweeteners
Some artificial sweeteners can wreak havoc with the gut, plus they can trigger other health issues including increased blood sugar levels, impaired insulin response, and even neurological problems. It’s best to eliminate any foods and drinks that contain Aspartame, Saccharine, and Sucralose. Healthier alternatives include natural sweeteners such as Stevia which comes from the leaves of the stevia rebaudiana plant, and Xylitol which is often extracted from birch trees.
Look After Your Teeth
Some health experts believe that gut health starts in the mouth. While our oral environment is separate from the gut, it is very closely linked. Studies show that saliva carries around a trillion bacteria into the gut every day! An overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the mouth can affect the overall health of our gut biome.
This is why it’s even more important to practice good dental hygiene. Make sure that you floss daily or use a water flosser to prevent foods from decaying in the teeth, and have annual check-ups.
Try A Plant-Based Diet
Research suggests that a healthy, balanced plant-based diet is better for the gut than a diet that contains animal products. Studies show that vegan and vegetarian diets contain more prebiotic fibre which helps to reduce unhealthy bacteria growth in the body. Those that don’t eat animal products are also less likely to ingest the toxic bacteria, E.coli.
Choose to eat an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits - organic where possible. Also include healthy grains, fibre-rich quinoa, nuts, seeds and cold-pressed oils like coconut and olive.
Eat Foods that Contain Polyphenol
Polyphenols are antioxidant-rich plant compounds that support digestive health, reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure and help to limit oxidative stress. Some examples of foods that contain high levels of polyphenols include grape skins, green tea, almonds, onions, blueberries, and broccoli.
Cacao is particularly beneficial as it stimulates the production of healthy gut bacteria called bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. When choosing cacao to support gut health, always go for raw, organic cacao when possible.
Green tea and Matcha are also rich in the most potent type of polyphenols called catechin polyphenols. Matcha is an antioxidant powerhouse that can contain over 130 times more antioxidants than green tea, making it a great addition to any diet.
Choose Natural Cleaning Products
Many cleaning products are filled with chemicals and other nasties that can drastically affect the health of your gut. A study published in 2018 analyzed the gut microbiome of over 700 infants. It found that those living in households with exposure to disinfectants had a much higher presence of an unhealthy bacteria called lachnospiraceae. These types of microbes have been linked to obesity and diabetes. Furthermore, the study revealed that after three years, the infants living in households that used disinfectants had a higher body mass index (BMI) than those who didn’t.
You can choose to purchase eco-friendly alternatives that avoid the use of harmful chemicals. Natural cleaning products can also be used where possible, including simple homemade vinegar or lemon solutions.
Get Enough Sleep
You may be surprised to hear that sleep, or lack of it, can affect the overall health of the gut. Irregular sleep patterns can increase the risk of inflammation and negatively impact healthy gut flora. The amount of sleep we need to get varies from person to person, but it is recommended that you get at least 7 solid hours of sleep a night.
You can choose to improve your sleep routine by stopping eating 3 hours before bed, by going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day, and having a relaxing bath, reading or using essential oils to aid a dreamy night sleep.
Try to limit phone use before bed, as phones emit a blue light that blocks melatonin and affects our circadian rhythms which makes it harder to fall asleep. Some phones have a night-mode which allows you to switch to an ‘orange light’ option. This is more beneficial, but it’s still best to stop looking at phone screens for at least an hour before bed.
Support Your Gut With Superfoods
Choose to strengthen your gut and provide a space for healthy bacteria to flourish with natural supplements and superfoods. Medicinal mushrooms are wonderful for supporting gut health, as they contain a whole host of nutrients, antioxidants and rare health compounds that are hard to find elsewhere in nature.
We created our new Gut Health blend using the highest quality red duanwood reishi, chaga, lion’s mane, and poria mushrooms. The ready-to-use powder blend provides both a powerful and all-natural way to nourish your digestive system.
So what steps will you take to improve your gut health? By making a few small changes to your diet and lifestyle you can create big shifts in your mental and physical health.