Why Gut Health is Important and 6 Ways to Improve it
Let’s face it our society is obsessed with having flat washboard abs, but our gut health is more important than an outward appearance. The way we carry our fat in our abdomen is a good indication of the health inside our bodies. It is important to know the ways to improve your gut health to have lasting benefits.
What is Gut Flora
Gut Flora is also known as gastrointestinal microbiota, and are essential to your health. The flora is a network of microorganisms residing in your digestive tract and contains bacteria lining your intestine to assist in food digestion. In addition, they send signals to your immune system and help with brain function. Gut flora initially comes from your mother but is heavily influenced by your lifestyle.
How to Tell If Your Gut is Impacting Your Health
To tell if your gut is impacting your health, measure your circumference. Anything above 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women is an indication of excess belly fat. Also, you can look in the mirror to see how your fat is distributed. If you are shaped more like an apple vs. a pear, you may need to make some changes. Besides the majority of the immune system is located in the gut, so a healthy one is essential. Imbalances in the gut are linked to depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, and autoimmune diseases, to name a few.
If you’re not sure if you have a healthy gut, pay attention to these signs:
Depression and anxiety
How to Improve Gut Health
Added sugar is the main component of excess fat in the body, and over time it builds up in the belly. Added sugar does not include sugar found naturally in fruit, but applies to refined sugars. In addition, limit carbohydrate intake. A low carbohydrate diet has been studied to reduce fat in the body, specifically targeting the belly fat. To achieve this, avoid refined carbohydrates like white bread and pasta. For further improved gut health, reducing inflammatory foods, like sugar, dairy, corn, gluten, and soy, can help heal the gut. In addition, irritants, including caffeine and alcohol, are recommended to be limited.
Do add these to your diet.
Probiotics and prebiotics put back the good bacteria to aid in better digestion and inflammation reduction. L-glutamine is another nutrient that helps repair the gut wall lining. Finally, taking a digestive enzyme with meals helps break down the trouble foods in your diet.
Foods to Support Gut Health
Fermented Foods: A natural source of probiotics that help restore the balance of healthy bacteria. Examples include kimchi, miso, olives, and kombucha.
Prebiotic Foods: Probiotics feed on fiber from prebiotics, which encourages healthy bacteria to multiply. Examples include garlic, onions, whole grains, and asparagus.
Eat more protein for long term benefits.
Protein is considered one of the most important macronutrients for weight loss and can boost metabolism by 80 calories a day. Protein can also help reduce cravings while on a low carbohydrate diet, and has been linked to belly fat reduction. One study found those who ate more quality protein had less belly fat. To be significant enough for change, protein intake should be about 20-30% of your diet.
Doing a million sit-ups in the gym is not affective in belly fat reduction, but aerobic exercise is. Studies also show that regular exercise leads to long-term results once the weight has been lost. Finally, regular exercise also reduces inflammation and other factors associated with abdominal obesity.
Staying hydrated has positive effects on your gut. Hydration improves the balance of good bacteria in the gut and supports the lining of the intestines. Drinking more water is an inexpensive and easy way to promote a healthy gut.
Stress Reduction and Better Sleep
High stress and lack of sleep have a trickle-down effect on your body and health. We know that both sleep deprivation and increased stress raise stress hormones like cortisol. This hormone contributes to belly fat retention, signaling poor gut health. Try reducing your stress through meditation, exercise, or mindfulness. These coping mechanisms, in turn, improve your sleep quality.