Gut health has been a bit of a buzz term around the health and fitness world. More and more people are talking about gut health and ways to achieve the optimal micro biome! But, what does it all mean? Why is it so important? And what are the least invasive, most holistic ways to achieve gut health? I for one had all of these questions myself which is why I took an online course by IDEA fitness education, presented by Joseph Weiss, MD, FACP, FACG, AGAF, all about the topic! It was fascinating and I am here to share all of the little tidbits I learned along the way!
A little back story about your gut. Your digestive system is the key to either feeling like a million bucks or feeling like you need to stay indoors sleeping all day. It is made up of your micro biome- the microbes of bacteria that line your digestive tract and allow for you to digest and absorb nutrients. Your digestive tract has 1,000x more microbes in it than there are stars in a galaxy. Each micro biome is unique to each individual. Think about how many varieties of people are in the world and how many different environments those people are in. Would you ever think you could live off of the same food that a community of individuals live off of in a village without being able to go to the local Whole Foods and stock up on your regular foods? If you were to go there it might be uncomfortable for a few days but your micro biome would adjust. The bacterias that you need for those certain foods would flourish while the ones that you do not need will decrease. Think of it this way, a horse is able to survive off of grass and grain because their micro biome’s are able to extract a significant amount of calories from these foods which allows them to still be strong and powerful animals.
It is important to have variety in your micro biome and to eat in order to support it for a few reasons! For one, hormones such as serotonin and dopamine are in your gut! Thats right, those hormones that are responsible for making you feel good start in your gut (90% serotonin is in your gut, 50% dopamine is in your gut). When something is off balance for you in particular it can cause moodiness. Majority of diseases also have been known to stem from the gut so it is vital to have a properly working system in place to keep you happy and healthy!
So how the heck do you achieve the optimal gut? Is it just probiotics?
From the course I took the DR recommended treating probiotics the same as we do with antibiotics. Utilize caution, and sparingly. Majority of probiotics only have one or two strains of bacteria in them. The key is VARIETY. With the amount of microbes found within the micro biome it is vital that there is enough variety to help your body with the variety of foods we ingest, things we drink, touch, and breathe in on a daily basis. Taking probiotics, even if they do come with a variety of strains of bacteria, can crowd out the microbes that you need and replace them with the ones your particular body may not need that can be found in your probiotics.
Probiotics can be beneficial if you are feeling like your gut is a little out of whack, or if you have been eating foods that are not typically apart of your diet to assist your micro biome (as long as if there are plenty of strains of variety in there). However, for the long term every day use, use caution for the reasons we just discussed.
Now, while probiotics can cost you a pretty penny, there are some other more holistic ways you achieve a healthy gut through foods. Cutting out processed foods and laying off of gluten and dairy can have some benefits on your digestive system. If you are feeling overly bloated or tired after eating foods containing gluten and/or dairy it might be best to do an elimination diet to see if these foods trigger that response.
Eating whole foods and a diet that is predominantly plant based can do wonders for your gut! In particular the foods that are known to help the most include fermented foods such as Kefir, kimchi, yogurt, miso, apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut and kombucha are beneficial to include in your diet because they contain the bacterias that help support your gut. Consuming crucifurous veggies such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale and cabbage has also been linked to improved intestinal health. As well as consuming flaxseed which allows your gut flora to flourish. (Check out this article to see a list of more foods to help get your gut feeling 100%.)
While there is still much for me to learn about the micro biome and gut health the key take aways I repeatedly hear are to drink plenty of water, don’t over supplement with probiotics, try including some form of fermented food regularly into your diet for healthy bacteria, eat more whole foods like fruits and veggies to allow for your body to feel its best!
I challenge you to really pay attention to your body’s internal cues each time you eat. Reactions such as bloating, cramping, excessive gas, and non regular bowel movements are common signs that something could be wrong. Honor your body by giving it the foods it loves and the nutrients it needs to have a happy and healthy gut!
Need help with your nutrition and health goals? Head over to ShannonDolanFitness.com I do online health and nutrition coaching and would love to work with you!