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What Is Gut Health and Why Is It So Important?
What IS Gut Health?
“'Gut health' is a term increasingly used in the medical literature and by the food industry. It covers multiple positive aspects of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, such as the effective digestion and absorption of food, the absence of GI illness, normal and stable intestinal microbiota, effective immune status and a state of well-being.”
Are you confused yet? Cuz my brain was spinning when I was reading a lot of this initially, really trying to comprehend what a lot of this truly meant (just me?!). In simpler terms (and not including everything-mind you), gut health refers to how well your digestive system is working. Is your body ACTUALLY absorbing the nutrients you take in, or is it getting lost somewhere in the process…with all that healthy eating going to waste?
Why Is Gut Health SO Important?
An unhealthy gut can contribute to a wide range of diseases including diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, autism spectrum disorder, depression, and chronic fatigue syndrome, to name a few.
Many researchers believe that supporting intestinal health and restoring the integrity of the gut barrier will be one of the most important goals of medicine in the 21st century.
Gut Flora and Gut Barrier
There are two closely related variables that determine our gut health: the “gut flora”, and the “gut barrier.”
The gut flora contains 10 times more bacteria than all the human cells in the entire body, and basically–our bodies are more bacteria than anything else—so this part is real, REAL important. The gut flora is responsible for normal digestive function, accounts for approximately 80 percent of our bodies immune response, and helps to regulate our metabolism.
Thats a freakin BIG responsibility if you ask me!
The gut barrier is your gut’s gatekeeper that decides what gets in and what stands out.
What Can Affect Our Gut Flora In a Negative Way?
- Antibiotics and other medications like birth control and NSAIDs
- Diets high in refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods
- Diets low in fermentable fibres, aka not enough veggies
- Foods known to cause leaky gut, gluten, seed oils and refined sugar
- Chronic stress
- Chronic infections
What is Leaky Gut?
“Leaky Gut” is when all that discussed above is compromised, meaning the gut barrier is letting in things it shouldn’t.
It’s when large protein molecules ‘leak’ into the bloodstream. Since these proteins don’t belong outside of the gut, the body mounts an immune response and attacks them.
This can cause a ton of different auto-immune diseases and be the main reason so many people have digestive issues.
Your gut has also been referred to as your body’s “second brain.” Take that in for a moment…THAT’S how important gut health is, and frankly, I’m surprised it’s rarely talked about or taught in school.
This article goes in depth about gut health and how your gut is your body’s second brain in a really cool (but sciency kinda way-just FYI!).
My biggest takeaway from all this research is that “gastrointestinal health (gut health) can be the root cause for many other health issues including brain and mental health.” It’s not just being bloated, feeling discomfort, etc, it affects your MENTAL FREAKIN HEALTH…that’s HUGE.
There is a possibility to reverse a lot of these consequences by simply improving your gut health–and that’s worth exploring if you’ve suffered from depression or mental health issues.
“it’s entirely possible to restore the full health of your gastrointestinal system, which can have major positive effects on your entire body, from mood, to memory, and more. Healing your gut allows the body to build a stronger immune system and produce the right kind of bacteria that tells your brain that it’s okay to feel good again.”
What are the Symptoms of Leaky Gut?
THIS article goes IN DEPTH into each of these signs, so if you wanna deep dive, I suggest checking it out, but of course, as always, go see your doctor before taking any drastic measures!
- DIGESTIVE ISSUES LIKE BLOATING, GAS OR DIARRHOEA
“The number and diversity, of the bacteria living inside your gut impact your overall health and wellness.”
- SUGAR CRAVINGS
“To sum it up, the bacteria try to get us to eat foods that they thrive on.”
- BAD BREATH
“Bad breath is a sign your gut flora isn't optimal.”
- FOOD ALLERGIES OR SENSITIVITIES
“The gut barrier is your gatekeeper that decides what gets in and what stays out.”
- MOODINESS, ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION
“A compromised gut will affect your ability to use serotonin – your happy hormone – and vitamin D within your body.”
- SKIN PROBLEMS LIKE ECZEMA
“The scientists concluded that one possible cause and effect between intestinal bacteria and diabetes is that certain bacteria incite an immune response. Within the intestinal bacteria population, there are microbes that form toxins that enter the gut and then cause inflammation throughout the body, including liver and fat cells that can affect overall metabolism and insulin sensitivity.”
- AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE AND SUPPRESSED IMMUNITY
“I have not seen a client at the BePure clinic with thyroid disease who has not had leaky gut, in particular an intolerance to gluten.”
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Simply put, intermittent fasting is a method of eating in which you eat within a condensed time period and fast the rest of the time. Example: Eat from 12-8 (8 hour eating window) and fast from 8-12 the next day (16 hour fasting window).
You can deep dive on this topic in my previous blog posts here:
I go into not only what it is, but who it’s for, what benefits you can see from intermittent fasting, the different intermittent fasting eating schedules, etc.
Can Intermittent Fasting Improve Digestion and Gut Health?
References To Dive Deeper:
We know from a variety of animal and human studies that what we eat, the amount of fats, carbohydrates and proteins, can remodel our guts.
But when we eat can also impact our gut microbiomes, and thus our overall metabolic health. Enter…intermittent fasting!
Studies show reducing or eliminating nighttime eating and prolonging nightly fasting intervals can improve various health parameters, including your gut microbiome.
Among its benefits, fasting gives your overworked gut a break from energy-intensive tasks like digesting and assimilating food.
“Fasting has a positive effect on your insulin levels, which can aid in muscle growth as well as “gut healing.” Emily shared, “Fasting gives your digestive system a break from digesting food, which I found helped me a lot with my sensitive tummy.” She said IF has improved her irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms.”–Emily’s experience with fasting from the article cited above.
What are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
*Adherence To Diet
A few other benefits that people have experienced:
*Improved digestion/gut health (as explained in this entire blog post!)
*Increase insulin sensitivity (hence, why you CAN drink bulletproof coffee during your fast and still see the benefits. Check out my latest blog post on bulletproof coffee and intermittent fasting here).
*May be beneficial for heart health
*Can be good for your brain
As stated many times–if you’re experiencing digestive issues or digestive discomfort, see a doctor! Intermittent fasting might be a method you can implement to naturally start healing your gut.
But you want to make sure you’re doing it the right way, so be sure to do your research–binge read my previous blogs on intermittent fasting (and videos here), and don’t miss out on my next how to do intermittent fasting workshop where I’ll deep dive and also include some tips on flexible dieting and how to get started.
Register here for the next workshop <3
Megan Yelaney | Life + Business Coach
PS. Be sure to join my Free How to Do Intermittent Fasting workshop! Join here.
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