Most people understand that to keep your body and heart in shape, you do cardio. To strengthen muscles and bones, you lift a few weights.
However, even regular gym-goers might be surprised to learn that your gut plays a pivotal role in nearly every aspect of your health.
What have you done for your gut lately?
Your Gut and the Important Role It Plays
Your gut is home to millions of microorganisms that work together to keep your digestive tract running smoothly. Aside from aiding digestion, these microorganisms help strengthen your immune system and boost your physical and mental health.
In fact, nearly 80% of all of your body’s immune cells reside in the gut.
As more people have come to recognize the vital role that the gut plays in their overall health, they have begun making adjustments to keep it strong.
Gut health is a trending topic in the fitness world, and it is working its way into the mainstream conversation. It’s important that people of all ages understand how their gut health can impact their well-being.
What Causes Poor Gut Health?
Poor gut health can be caused by a variety of factors or conditions. An individual who is suffering from stomach issues should work with his or her physician to determine the root cause. These are a few of the most common triggers of gut maladies:
- Undue stress or anxiety: If you are consumed with anxiety, your brain sends a message directly to the gut. The hormones that cause stress can disrupt the balance of the microbiome, which could lead to physical or mental health issues.
- Poor diet: Your gut is adversely affected anytime you stray from a well-balanced diet. In particular, if you eat a lot of processed foods, the gut might struggle to support the helpful bacteria and microorganisms it needs to keep you healthy. This could have a detrimental impact on your health.
- Lack of sleep: Insufficient sleep can impact the normal function of your gut, which in turn can exacerbate sleep issues, leading to an adverse cycle.
- Excessive consumption of alcohol: Drinking heavily on a daily basis prevents your gut from producing the beneficial bacteria that it needs to thrive. Certain types of alcohol can be more problematic than others, such as hard liquor.
- Medications: The medications that you take for other conditions could cause an imbalance in your gut. Ask a doctor about the side effects of your medications and how you can combat those issues.
Symptoms of Which You Should Be Aware
There are several signs that may indicate that your microbiome is imbalanced. Here are some of the most common symptoms of poor gut health:
- Bloating: Bloating on occasion is common and may not be a sign that your gut health is in danger. However, if you are experiencing extreme bloat every day, you may want to consider some lifestyle changes to improve gut health.
- Excessive Gas: Gas that is painful, uncomfortable, or occurring on a regular basis may be a sign that the microorganisms in your gut are out of balance.
- Constipation or diarrhea: The inability to use the bathroom or control your bowels may be a sign of Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS. IBS is often triggered by an imbalanced gut. It’s important to note that women are more likely to suffer from IBS than men.
- Insomnia: Many people assume that insomnia is caused by stress or other environmental factors. Surprisingly, poor gut health is often the root cause of sleepless nights. To make matters worse, lack of proper sleep can continue to have a detrimental impact on your gut and compound your sleep issues.
- Skin Irritation: If you are suffering from acne breakouts, it could be a sign that your gut needs some extra attention. When the microbiome is unable to provide a hospitable environment for the many types of good bacteria, you’re likely to see the impact on your face.
How to Improve Your Gut Health
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to improve your gut health and reduce these frustrating symptoms. These tips include:
- Changing your diet: Make sure you opt for meals that are rich in vitamins and nutrients and free of additives. Add a probiotic to your diet to aid digestion and balance the bacteria in your gut.
- Increasing activity levels: Find an enjoyable way to exercise and incorporate it into your daily routine.
- Getting more and better sleep: Create a nighttime routine that allows you to relax and rest. Avoid screen time in the evening and stick to a schedule so your body establishes a rhythm.
Once you are aware of the impact that gut health can have on your well-being, you can begin to make it a priority.
Many of the lifestyle changes that are required to improve the microbiome can easily be incorporated into a daily routine.
Be mindful of the gut and you should begin to see the benefits in almost every aspect of your life.
About The Author:
Kara Kash, RD, LDN, is a registered dietitian at Factor – a premium weekly meal delivery service that fuses world-class culinary dishes with the latest in nutrition science to produce fully prepared meals that are as delicious as they are nutritious.
This infographic was created by Factor, a keto meal delivery service