Ever wondered why your stomach rumbles when you think about food? Or why it hurts when you’re stressed? It’s your gut-brain connection!
When you hear the phrase ‘gut health’ you will probably find yourself thinking about how well you digest your food but your gut is connected to so much more than that! Your enteric nervous system (located in your gut) is connected to – and communicates with – your central nervous system (including your brain) in a bi-directional manner.1https://joinzoe.com/learn/gut-brain-connection We call this the gut-brain axis and it influences your wider well-being.
Your gut microbiome is a complex network and it’s unique to you. Many factors can lead to an unhappy gut, which affects your wider well-being, from genetics to lifestyle factors. To identify the signs of an unhealthy gut, firstly, you need to understand how exactly your gut is linked to your wider well-being.
Let’s look at the science…
What is your gut microbiome?
The word ‘microbiome’ refers to the enormous colonies of microorganisms (for example bacteria, viruses, fungi), both beneficial and neutral, that coexist within your body, mainly in your gut. These living organisms have a huge impact on your health.
Your gut microbiome plays an important role in –
- Digestion and absorption of nutrients2https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26762459/3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4202342/
- Immune function4https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27231050/
- Heart health 5https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26358192/
- Hormone regulation 6https://kresserinstitute.com/gut-hormone-connection-gut-microbes-influence-estrogen-levels/
- Mental health and mood regulation7https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25078296/
- Weight management8https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26912499/
- Blood sugar regulation9https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26912499/10https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26590418/
What can negatively affect your gut health?
The health of your gut microbiome is influenced by many factors, such as (but not limited to) –
- Diet – high intake of processed foods, sugar
- Poor sleep
- Environmental toxins
- Lack of exercise or movement
- Antibiotics (click here for tips on what to do if you need to take antibiotics)
Signs of an unhappy gut
An imbalance between the bacteria living inside your gut is known as ‘gut dysbiosis’. This may present itself in many ways. Here are some examples –
- Gastrointestinal symptoms – such as bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, wind, acid reflux.
- Food intolerances – poor gut bacterial diversity may impair your gut’s ability to process certain foods11https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6767923/
- Changes in weight and/or energy levels – dysbiosis may impair your gut’s ability to absorb and store nutrients 12https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26912499/13https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3601187/
- Fluctuations in blood sugar – dysbiosis may impact blood sugar regulation14https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26590418/
- Skin problems – your skin is a map of your gut. Conditions like eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and acne are autoimmune conditions. 70% of your immune system sits inside your gut microbiome, which communicates with other organs (like your skin!) in a bi-directional manner.15https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7916842/
- Poor sleep – your sleeping patterns are affected by your gut!16https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6290721/ Read more about how your gut health affects your sleep here.
- Lowered immunity – approximately 70% of your immune system sits inside your gut. A healthy gut = a healthy immune system!17https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27231050/
- Hormone issues – the oestrobolome is a collection of gut bacteria involved in the regulation of hormones, like oestrogen.18https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28778332/ Learn more about how your gut influences your hormones here!
We are not medically trained, and the information provided is educational, not diagnostic. If you are concerned about any symptoms, please consult with your doctor.
How can you make your gut ‘happy’?
Your gut microbiome is as unique as your fingerprint. Even if you eat a good diet, your microbiome might still lack the ability to synthesise specific vitamins or break down dietary fibre. Here are our top suggestions for improving your gut health and keeping your gut happy –
- Take a Microbiome Test. The test examines how well your gut microbiome is functioning by examining five key areas: bacterial diversity, probiotics, pathogens, fibre synthesis and butyrate production. The test will show whether you have a low-grade pathogen infection, which may be slowing down your gut health results. The test includes a free consultation with one of our certified nutritionists, who will explain your results and provide you with specific, evidence-based suggestions about how to improve your gut health.
- Take synbiotics daily. Synbiotics are the combination of probiotics (like those found in our Kefir) and prebiotics (like those in our Complete Prebiotic). Kefir works by repopulating your gut microbiome with all the beneficial bacteria needed to thrive while prebiotics are foods that promote the growth and diversity of your gut bacteria. Together they are a powerful combination!
- Eat other fermented foods – like goat yoghurt, miso, kimchi, and sauerkraut. Read more about the benefits here.
- Take collagen – collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It is the major component of connective tissues that make up several body parts, including your gut lining!
- Eat more wholegrains – for example, millet, quinoa, amaranth, oatmeal and buckwheat. These are low on the glycaemic index, rich in fibre and highly nourishing for your gut bacteria!
- Eat polyphenol-rich foods – polyphenols can promote the growth of healthy bacteria and are found in many foods like berries, nuts and seeds, spices and cocoa19https://atlasbiomed.com/blog/the-ultimate-guide-to-polyphenols-health-and-gut-microbiome/
- Eat slowly and chew your food! Here are some top tips for mindful eating.
- Exercise! Read more on the gut-exercise connection here.
Always check with your GP for interactions with medications/health conditions before starting supplements.
Any questions? Contact one of our Nutritional Therapists via live chat, we’re available on weekdays from 8am to 8pm.