Welcome back to HDEC Fit Tips!! We’re gonna take a fresh look at things….. take a deep dive into subjects…try to make sense of current topics in the headlines…. answer your questions about your health, your fitness, your training, your endurance sport…. we’re here for you and your fitness journey. So let’s dig in….
We’re going for the “gut punch”… hey don’t make a stink about it, but I’m talking about Gut Health… What does gut health mean and why do I give a sh$t… how can I tell if my shit stinks… what can I do to make my gut healthy…. WOW you stepped right in there with some really good questions… so go get your Squatty Potty* and take a seat….
What does gut health mean and why should I care?
The term “gut health” broadly describes the delicate balance and function of the over 100 trillion good bacteria (the gut microbiome) that live in the digestive tract from the rooter to the tooter - the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestines, large intestines and the anus.
Digestion of food begins in the mouth and is ultimately broken down into simple nutrients as it passes through the gut ultimately eliminating the things not needed. These nutrients enter the bloodstream by passing through the gut wall and are delivered throughout the body. Ideally, this requires a healthy gut wall that contains healthy good bacteria and an army of immune cells. The good bacteria and immune cells combined ward off infectious agents like bacteria, viruses, or fungi and other foreign particles. Because, when you think about it, food is one of the ways bugs and foreign proteins can gain access to your body internally.
The good bacteria in the microbiome do more than just help with digestion. They help keep your “bad” bacteria in check. They multiply so often that the unhealthy kind don't have space to grow. A healthy balance of more good bacteria than bad is the goal for optimal health. The health of your gut is believed to be linked to the health of other systems (like the heart, kidneys, skin), the metabolism (as it relates to obesity), and the brain. Ever heard of a gut feeling? Well there is a pathway of communication between the gut and the brain through nerves and several hormones.
So what are the signs of an unhealthy gut?
Bubble guts… we all know it, had it, survived it. But how about vague abdominal pain, bloating, loose stools, constipation, heartburn, nausea or vomiting… reminiscent of the Pepto Bismal jingle… We’ve all been there. But some that you may not know include illness and chronic conditions like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome/disease, allergies, yeast infections, some cardiovascular conditions, problems with cholesterol, eczema and other rashes, food intolerances, unexplained weight loss, depression and fatigue… and many more.
How to improve the health of your gut?
Well if the bad guys are beating the good guys, you could simply add more good guys… right? Supplementation of good bacteria is the best option suggested by most nutritional authorities. The most common form is probiotics in capsules but they are also in food sources. Yogurt, miso and sour dough bread are the foods that come to mind. Fermenting food is a good way to get probiotics! Examples include pickles, kimchi, sour kraut, kefir, and fermented soy products. The thing you want to look for is “live and active cultures” in the labeling.
Here are a few additional suggestions:
More fresh fruit and vegetables, less red meat.
More whole foods, less processed foods.
Drink freshly squeezed lemons in spring or filtered water. This is alkalizing and helps to clean the stomach of any residual debris.
Do not ignore the urge to have a bowel movement. (Don’t forget your Squatty Potty) Listen to your body.
Eat more fiber!!!!!!!
Skip the NSAID’s/non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs. Regular use of these drugs can cause peptic ulcers in the digestive tract.
Be careful of use and overuse of other drugs that create digestive problems. Too many antibiotics can strip your gut of good bacteria and you can end up with c-difficile.
Use herbs for digestion. (i.e - ginger, mint, peppermint, chamomile)
Drink your liquids before and after meals, not during.
Take your time and really chew-chew-chew. Your body can use energy for other things if you chew your food instead of relying on acid and enzymes.
Eat slower so you do not swallow a lot of air while you eat.
Do all of the above and skip the laxatives, as your body becomes reliant on them and they are habit forming.
Smoking and drinking can cause ulcers and heartburn.
Don’t be afraid to enlist the help of a specialist (gastroenterologist, a gut doctor). You may want to get a referral from a friend or relative. Remember that they are there to diagnose and treat, prevention lies in your hands.
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