Let’s talk about the gut.
It’s where all of the action happens, from absorbing nutrients to digesting food. But its role goes far beyond gastrointestinal health. When the gut isn’t healthy, it alerts your body in many ways:
- Upset stomach
- Food intolerances
- Skin irritation
- Unexplained weight gain
Research shows that in order to treat these symptoms, you must first tackle the root of the problem – the gut.
Keeping your gut healthy is the first step in overall wellness. We’re sharing everything you need to know about gut health, including three simple ways to improve your gut microbiome...with food!
What is gut health?
So what is gut health really? There’s perhaps more to it than meets the eye. Leading scientists have defined five criteria that make up "gut health":
- no intestinal diseases
- effective digestion and absorption of food
- Normal and stable intestinal flora
- A strong immune system
- general well-being
In Japan, people regard the gut as the "honoured centre" or "centre of physical and mental strength". In Europe however it’s often still considered a purely digestive organ - and is thus grossly underestimated. Bloating, diarrhoea and constipation are taboo subjects, although 20% of the population suffers from constipation. One of the reasons for this: We don’t feed our gut bacteria properly!
Get to know your gut bacteria
The average adult hosts about 100 trillion types of bacteria, both good and bad, inside their digestive tract. This is referred to as the gut microbiome, and everyone’s is unique. It plays many roles in your health, from metabolising nutrients, to protecting you against infections. But research shows that’s just the beginning! Several studies show the connection between gut health and the immune system, mood, mental health, and skin health.
While some bacteria may be beneficial to your health, others can be harmful, especially when they multiply. Bad bacteria can influence the growth of certain diseases, such as IBS, Rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many forms of cancer. So, how can you prevent an overload of “bad” bacteria? By diversifying your gut microbiome! According to research, having a diverse community of bacteria can help lower your risk of certain diseases.
This means you have to replenish and feed the good bacteria to keep your gut happy and healthy. Avoiding processed foods, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, fried foods, and foods treated with antibiotics (AKA animal meat), is your best bet in preventing harmful bacteria growth.
One study found that a diet high in fruits and veggies helped prevent the growth of disease-causing bacteria. In addition to fruits and veggies, increasing your intake of gut-healthy foods can improve your immune system, reduce inflammation, boost metabolism, and much more.
What is the gut brain axis?
The impact our gut has on our overall well-being (and not just digestion) can be best demonstrated with the gut brain axis.
The gut-brain axis describes the mutual communication between the gut and the brain. Our microbiome also plays a central role in this interaction. The microbiome includes all microorganisms that have settled in the gut. But the gut-brain axis is by far not only responsible for the movement of the intestinal muscles and the course of the entire digestive process. It’s also involved in appetite, the body's energy balance, the reward system and eating habits. Under normal circumstances, this communication network with all the partners involved in it ensures a self-regulating inner balance, the so-called homeostasis. Each part of this network influences the others. For example, our brain or psyche can have an influence on digestion and gut flora, or vice versa.
It has been shown that a change in the interaction of gut, brain and microbiome is associated with changes in stress response and overall behaviour in animals and humans. Interestingly, 50% of patients with IBS have depression or anxiety as a concomitant condition. This is also reflected in the composition of the gut bacteria, which shows significant differences between patients with depression and healthy people!
How to improve your gut health
Gut health foods
1. Eat Prebiotics
Prebiotics are non-digestible substances that increase the growth of beneficial bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. Prebiotics also help to improve gut barrier function and host immunity, while reducing pathogenic bacteria. And although many people turn to prebiotic supplements, you can find natural prebiotics in many whole foods. Fruits, veggies, and whole grains contain prebiotics – such as bananas, asparagus, leeks, apples, oats, flaxseeds, garlic, and onions.
2. Eat Fermented Foods
Fermented foods such as vegan kimchi, tempeh, sauerkraut, miso, and kombucha (sugar-free) are rich in probiotics. Research shows that eating fermented foods can have positive effects on your gut microbiota, and help improve digestion. According to a recent study “probiotics are able to renew, restore, and grow affected tissues lining the digestive tract with beneficial microorganisms – neutralizing the harmful ones.” Pass the kombucha!
3. Eat Collagen-Boosting Foods
Think collagen only promotes younger-looking skin? Think again! There are plenty of reasons to add collagen to your diet, and improving gut health is one of them. Collagen helps build and maintain healthy connective tissue in your digestive tract. It also contains large amounts of amino acids glycine, glutamine, and proline – which can be beneficial to stomach health.
Increasing your intake of certain nutrients can help increase collagen production. Here are the top four nutrients to add to your diet:
- Vitamin C (found in acerola, citrus, yellow peppers, and strawberries)
- Proline (found in asparagus, mushrooms, and cabbage)
- Glycine (found in beans, nuts, and seeds)
- Copper (found in whole grains and chocolate)
Just like you would spring clean your apartment for a fresh start, why not do the same with your gut? During a gut cleanse, residues, deposits and foreign substances are removed from the intestines and the gut flora is brought back into balance. You can carry out a gut cleanse once or twice a year in the form of a detox as a preventive measure. Please be aware: This is no medical advice! Always check back with a professional and your doctor before you do any sort of treatments at home.
A gut cleanse can eliminate digestive problems, strengthen the immune system and thus optimise overall well-being. So how does it work?
A gut cleanse usually takes place in several steps, because the intestine is laid out in loops, which creates many nooks and crannies where residues and foreign substances can settle. To be clear from the outset: There is no one best remedy for gut cleansing - every person is different and responds individually to colon cleansing products.The first step is to flush out and remove as many residues as possible, leaving your gut completely empty. As a quick way you can use saline laxatives, which retain water in the intestine and thus make the stool more fluid. Glauber's salt or Epsom salt are very popular products as well. They are dissolved in water and then drunk in sips. Castor oil has a similar effect to saline laxatives and is also one of the classic home remedies for gut cleansing. In order to cleanse the intestines of all residues and foreign substances in the long term, you can also choose other means that gently work longer term - in effect, a sustainable bowel emptying without enemas and laxatives. For this purpose, dietary fibres such as psyllium husks or linseed have proven to be effective, as they bind a lot of water, thus swelling up and reaching even the finest corners of the intestine.
After cleansing your gut, it is important to build it up again by nourishing the gut bacteria with prebiotics and probiotics. You might support this process for example by taking active bacterial cultures.
Trust your gut
Because we’re all aware how important the gut is, we’ve created the perfect bundle for you to give your gut all the love it needs and deserves. The Gut Health Bundle contains bioactive fibre and live culture superfood mixes to support a healthy microbiome and a happy gut. Gut Restore, a tropical drink mix, contains live cultures and fermented ginger, while Gut Feeling offers natural bioactive fibre (from Jerusalem artichoke) and digestive enzymes to help support smoother, more comfortable digestion. Both mixes are completely natural and plant-based and can be easily used daily in addition to a diet consisting of lots of fruits and vegetables.
The bottom line
Think of your gut microbiome as a precious ecosystem – it requires multiple sources to thrive. The best way to maintain a healthy gut microbiome is by eating a wide range of fruits, veggies, fermented foods, and vitamins and minerals.
You can also improve your microbiome by getting more sleep and daily exercise. A healthy gut can contribute to multiple health benefits, such as a stronger immune system, improved mood, better sleep, healthier skin, and hormonal balance.
Dinan, T. G., & Cryan, J. F. (2017). Gut-brain axis in 2016: Brain-gut-microbiota axis-mood, metabolism and behaviour. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 14(2), 69–70. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrgastro.2016.200
Weltens, N., Iven, J., Van Oudenhove, L., & Kano, M. (2018). The gut–brain axis in health neuroscience: implications for functional gastrointestinal disorders and appetite regulation. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1428(1), 129–150. https://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.13969
Cryan, J. F., & Dinan, T. G. (2012). Mind-altering microorganisms: The impact of the gut microbiota on brain and behaviour. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 13(10), 701–712. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn3346
Rea, K., Dinan, T. G., & Cryan, J. F. (2016). The microbiome: A key regulator of stress and neuroinflammation. Neurobiology of Stress, 4, 23–33. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ynstr.2016.03.001