Did you know that about 74% of Americans are living with constipation, abdominal pain, heartburn, flatulence, and the like? This simply means that their gut isn’t healthy. Fortunately, it isn’t a death sentence, as these conditions can be prevented and the gut kept healthy at all times with relative ease.
Keep reading to find out more about “gut health” and what you can do to improve yours.
What Is Gut Health?
Gut health is a term used to describe the normal functioning of organs involved in the digestion of food, absorption of food, and excretion of waste products. It also involves the normal and healthy distribution of the natural flora present in these organs.
Some immune cells and healthy bacteria are naturally found in the gut. They are extremely important. They are presently being looked at as a promising area of research in infection prevention, clinical care, and public health.
The gut microbiome functions to help fight against invading microorganisms that can cause infection. However, there are times when an imbalance exists in the gut microbiota, leading to infection with classical symptoms, such as those mentioned above.
Examples of this normal microbiota include Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Firmicutes, Bacteroides, etc.
Symptoms Of An Unhealthy Gut
The symptoms of an unhealthy gut include:
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss for no reason
- Inability to hold food, leading to diarrhea
- Bloodstained feces
- Dark feces
- Chest pain, amongst others.
The good news is that there are ways to boost our gut health.
Read Also: How to Support Good Gut Health for Kids
How To Improve Gut Health Naturally
It is not always about pharmaceuticals or medications, though they are important. For instance, supplements like ColonBroom are very beneficial for constipation. However, there is also a place for natural therapy. This is a classic situation where dieting can be a form of prophylaxis.
Some natural foods can be incorporated into our diets to boost gut health. They help in balancing the normal microbiota, boosting immune cells production and the overall strength of the gut.
The following are ways of improving gut health naturally:
- Eat more fermented foods.
Fermented foods such as yogurt, tempeh, wine, miso, sauerkraut, cultured milk, etc, contain prebiotics; bacteria that are good for gut health. Eating more of these foods helps to build the gut microbiota, thus improving gut health.
Fermentation is the process by which the food is broken down anaerobically to its products. These products contain prebiotics. An example of prebiotics present in yogurt is Lactobacilli.
However, it is important to note that some yogurts are sweetened. This means that they contain a lot of sugar which isn’t healthy. It is better to opt for unsweetened yogurts. Also, opt for smoothies with cultured milk.
- Do more plant-based dieting and less animal-based.
Plant-based diets include legumes, nuts, beans, fruits, vegetables, etc. These products have high fiber content.
Fibers cannot be digested by the body. They end up in the large intestine where they are acted upon by the gut microbiota. These bacteria break them down and digest them for their growth.
Fruits and vegetables also contain lots of antioxidants. These help in fighting off disease-causing free radicals from the body, thus improving general body immunity.
On the other hand, animal-based diets contain more harmful microorganisms, capable of destroying the normal gut flora and causing infection. This especially happens when they are not properly cooked.
- Embrace dark chocolates and polyphenols.
What is the big deal about dark chocolate? Someone might ask. Well, they’re not as palatable as other chocolates but they are healthier.
Dark chocolate and other polyphenol-containing substances are not efficiently digested and absorbed by the body cells. A large quantity makes their way to the large intestine or colon, where they are broken down by the same gut microbiota, for their growth.
You can have dark chocolate as a midday snack, just for the health of your gut.
Other polyphenol-containing foods include nuts, cocoa powder, cherries, berries, apples, vegetables, red wine, etc.
- Say yes to whole grain.
In addition to fibers, whole grains also contain some carbohydrates that cannot be digested by the small intestines. These eventually end up in the colon where they are acted upon by microbiota such as Bifidobacteria. They help the growth of this flora.
Examples of whole grains are brown rice, millet, corn, etc.
- Say yes to six months of exclusive breastfeeding.
This article will be incomplete without this important point. One of the vital reasons why six months of exclusive breastfeeding by mothers to babies is encouraged is that; breast milk contains prebiotics needed for the growth of the baby’s gut microbiota.
The first two years of a child’s life are years when the gut flora develops the most. A mother’s milk is most important at this stage.
Moreover, there are several other benefits of breastmilk, such as boosting immunity.
Gut health is extremely important for a healthy life. Although we all occasionally fall sick, we can help maintain a healthy gut microbiota by incorporating some of these natural guides.
Make your health a priority!