Check out this great post on Gut Health by our guest blogger Karissa Leifken.  Karissa is a Certified Integrative Health Coach and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutritional Science. Follow Karissa on Instagram: @Karisslee_

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What Does Your Gut Tell You?

What if I told you that the vast majority of people are neglecting one huge aspect of their health? What if I also told you that this thing being neglected, is likely the root cause to most people’s ailments?

I’m talking about your GUT.

Most aren’t aware of the massive importance of paying attention to gut health; and that’s okay because I’m about to give a brief synopsis of the gut’s role in our health.

The gut is essentially like a second brain. The health of your gut plays a tremendous role in the health of the rest of your body. Often overlooked, the gut microbiota is an ecosystem of bacteria, thriving within a host — A.K.A us. The health of the ecosystem depends on the health of the host AND vice versa.

An unhealthy ecosystem (unbalanced microbiota) can lead to a number of ailments within the host. And conversely, an unhealthy host can lead to an unbalanced and unhealthy ecosystem.

To elaborate further on this, the gut influences numerous mechanisms within the body, including:
Inflammation — inflammation in the gut can lead to systemic inflammation within the body.
Immune / Autoimmunity — the greatest number of our immune cells are housed, nice and cozy, in our small intestine. Inflammation and unbalanced microbiota can lead to immune / autoimmune issues.
Nutrient Absorption — poor nutrient absorption (due to inflammation) can lead to a number of issues, such as slowed metabolism, dry or thinning hair and nails, fatigue, etc.

Additionally, there are also multiple connections within the body, in which the gut is front and center:
The Gut-Brain Connection
The Gut-Thyroid Connection
The Gut-Skin Connection
The Gut-Sleep Connection
The Gut-Metabolism Connection
The Gut-Hormone Connection

Without going into too much detail about all of the above, it is clear that the gut is something that needs and deserves our attention.

SO — what can you start doing on a daily basis to ensure your gut is healthy and your ecosystem is thriving?

Let’s start with food. What foods are the best for gut health?

Considering everyone’s ecosystem can be a little different, it’s important to do some trial and error to determine which foods feel the best for you. But as a general recommendation, I like to start with incorporating more anti-inflammatory foods. The term “anti-inflammatory” in regards to food, means that these foods do not cause your gut to trigger an immune response and/or symptoms (gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, etc.). Below are a few examples of anti-inflammatory foods:
Green Leafy Vegetables (spinach, kale, bokchoy, collard greens, etc.)
Fruits (strawberries, blueberries, apples, etc.)
Omega-3’s (salmon, sardines, mackerel, etc.)
Legumes
Nuts & seeds (almonds, walnuts, etc.)
Olive Oil

We want to facilitate an ecosystem in which inflammation is at a minimum. By controlling inflammation, you are making room for good bacteria to take over and thus create a healthier, and more diverse ecosystem.

The next thing I like to recommend is to take a high-quality probiotic and (if needed) digestive enzymes. Probiotics are supplements which provide the host with healthy bacterial species that work to rebalance the gut microbiota and increase diversity in the ecosystem. However, not all probiotics are created equal, which is why it’s imperative to find a high quality one that works best for you.

Digestive Enzymes are supplements that facilitate in the digestion process in the small intestine when food is consumed. The reason for taking this type of supplement is for those who do not secrete adequate amounts of bile and pancreatic enzymes to digest food. When there is a deficiency of these enzymes, symptoms like bloating, constipation, and diarrhea may occur. Supplementing with digestive enzymes can aid in the healing of your gut and improve your ecosystem.

Lastly, a topic that is vastly overlooked, is stress. Chronic stress, whether it’s occurring from a job you hate, lack of sleep, poor diet, too much caffeine, over-exercise, etc., is another culprit of poor gut health. As stated above, the health of the ecosystem is dependent on the health of the host. A constant state of stress can manifest in many ways, but specifically in inflammation, which as we’ve discussed is a no-no for gut health. When attempting to monitor and reduce stress, I like to have my clients incorporate more mindful activities into their daily routine, such as mediation, journaling, and active breathing exercises. I also will make recommendations to cut back on caffeine, incorporate more rest days from vigorous exercise, get adequate rest with 6-8 hours of quality sleep per night, engage in daily walking or some sort of low-impact movement, and to get outside in nature.

These recommendations that I’ve listed above are a great starting point for someone who feels they need to improve their gut health. It’s important to note, however, that every person is different and trial and error is a part of the process to figuring out what works best for you.

I hope by the end of this blog, you are more familiar with the role the gut plays in our overall health and can walk away with some tips to start healing your gut and being a healthier you!

Thank you to our guest blogger Karissa Leifken for this great post about Gut Health.  Karissa is a Certified Integrative Health Coach and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutritional Science. She is currently studying for her Masters in Nutrition Science with a focus in Dietetics. Her goal is for people to discover their potential and how good their bodies are designed to feel.  Follow Karissa on Instagram: @Karisslee_