I have written about this topic in past blogs, and it is such an important topic that I felt I need to revisit it. Gut health has such an impact on our health, in ways we are only now starting to fully understand, and I firmly believe that gut health has a HUGE impact on your menopause journey.
What Is Gut-Health?
There has been lots of talk recently about what has become known as “gut-health”, and there is a good reason for this. Hidden within the walls of your digestive system is what is known as “your second brain” and this “brain in your gut” is changing the way that we look at the links between mood, digestion, weight, and even the way that you think. Gut feelings, anyone?
Does Disease Begin with Gut-Health?
The answer is “NO”. Not all the diseases start in the gut. For an example, it doesn’t apply to the genetic or inherited diseases. But there is evidence that lots of chronic metabolic diseases do begin in the gut. And we can prevent these diseases by following some easy steps.
Step 1: Understand the “Second Brain” and Why It Matters
This “second brain” is called the “enteric nervous system” or ENS and it comprises 2 thin layers of over 100 million nerve cells that line your GI tract from your oesophagus to your rectum.
The role of the ENS is to control digestion, including swallowing to releasing the enzymes that help break food down, to the control of blood flow, which aids with both nutrient absorption and elimination. The ENS communicates with our brain with significant results.
When you have an unhealthy gut the symptoms of that can manifest themselves in other parts of your body. It’s your body trying to tell you that something is wrong or out of balance.
Studies have found that increasing your gut-health can lead to improvements in:
How this Works to Bring These Results
The ENS may sense things that our cerebral brain can’t. Evidence has been found that when the GI tract is irritated it sends signals to the central nervous system, which can trigger our mood and ultimately affect it. When you consider that between 30%-40% of the
population has bowel problems of some kind and that a higher percentage of these individuals develop depression and/or anxiety it’s easy to see how there could be a connection.
Our bodies are filled with bacteria – good and bad. There are more bacteria in a human body than there are cells and there are an estimated 100 trillion microorganisms living in our bowels alone.
The key here is to have more good than bad bacteria in your gut – the fancy name for the good microorganisms is probiotics.
Probiotics help us do things like:
Step 2: Get More Probiotics
There are quite a few ways to get probiotics, but one of the easiest is to take a supplement called a probiotic. You will find many different kinds under different brand names and it would be a good idea to talk to your doctor or pharmacist to see which is the brand that they recommend.
If you’re not keen to take supplements, there are foods that are also high in probiotics.
These foods include:
Getting more probiotics into your system is one of the best ways that you can improve your gut-health.
But Wait There’s More!
Here are some other strategies you can use. The ones we tend to avoid in this busy world we live in. The ones that your grandmother and mother told you.
Stress Less. Laugh More.
Stress, especially long-term stress, not only affects our gut bacteria, but it also affects the productions of hormones and neurochemicals that communicate with our brain. When you experience long-term stress these chemicals and hormones can change permanently (unless you specifically work to change them back). Long-term stress may also lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), stomach ulcers, IBD, IBS, and potentially food
intolerances and allergies.
Laughter really is the best medicine. It helps to reduce stress and floods your body with the happy hormones and chemicals that make the good overtake the bad. There was even a study conducted (you can read more about it here), where researchers studied healthy people as well as those with atopic dermatitis – a disease that is often associated with imbalances in gut bacteria. The researchers had the participants watch funny movies daily for one week. In only one week, the patients’ gut flora had changed and resembled the healthy participants.
Step 3: Play in The Dirt!
Gardening is good for you because it gets you outside, gives you exercise, and putting your hands in soil introduces your body to the microorganisms that are found on the plants and in the ground.
In addition, stop killing all the bacteria. Anti-bacterial agents in things like soaps, sanitisers, and cleaning agents, are killing all the bacteria, the good and the bad. That results in the resistant bacteria getting stronger _ and these are typically the ones that cause disease, and the good bacteria dying off.
Studies have shown that kids who grow up with a dog have both a lower risk of allergies and a healthier immune system. Dogs are associated with a type of house dust that actually exposes us to important strains of bacteria – such as L. johnsonii, which is essential
within the digestive tract.
So dogs also work somewhat like a probiotic, helping develop healthy bacteria that boost your immune system, stopping you from getting ill, and possibly reducing allergies. Dogs can also help you, or in some cases force you, to exercise more and help relieve stress in
To Sum It All Up
It may well be that a large part of maintaining good health is maintaining good gut-health. There are many ways that you can do this, including exercise, and learning to listen to your body; however, some of the easiest changes that you can make are to:
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