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The gut, the second brain

Let’s talk gut health. Several studies have demonstrated links between gut health and the immune system, mood, mental health, autoimmune diseases, endocrine disorders, skin conditions, and cancer.

Many factors can go into having unbalanced gut health —low sleep, high stress levels, processed and high-sugar foods. Professionals like to say, “your gut is your second brain.”

Here are the most common signs:

Stomach issues

Stomach disturbances like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn can all be signs of an unhealthy gut.

Too much processed foods

A diet high in processed foods and added sugars can decrease the number of good bacteria in your gut. This imbalance can cause increased sugar cravings, which can damage your gut still further. High amounts of refined sugars and high-fructose corn syrup have been linked to increased inflammation in the body. 

Weight changes

Having up and down weight changes? This may be a sign of an unhealthy gut. An imbalanced gut can affect your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugar, and store fat.

Fatigue

An unhealthy gut can lead to sleep disturbances such as insomnia or poor sleep, and therefore lead to chronic fatigue.

Autoimmune conditions

Medical researchers are continually finding new evidence of the impact of the gut on the immune system. An unhealthy gut may increase systemic inflammation and alter the proper functioning of the immune system. This can lead to autoimmune diseases, where the body attacks itself rather than harmful invaders

But don’t sweat it! You can heal your gut and get back to feeling your best self. Here are ways you can better your overall wellbeing:

Manage stress levels

High levels of stress are hard on basically every aspect in your life, even your gut. Take time for yourself to lower stress levels. If you’re too busy to care for yourself, then we need to shift your responsibilities. Try meditation, walking, spending time with loved ones, decreasing caffeine intake, laughing, yoga or reading a good book.

Sleep

We all love sleep, so why don’t we get more of it? Not getting the right amount of sleep can have serious impacts on your gut health and your overall wellbeing, which can in turn contribute to more sleep issues. Try to prioritize getting at least 7–8hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Tip: Don’t scroll through social media before bed, that can wire your brain to be more alert and struggle to fall asleep. Instead opt for reading or journaling before bed.

Eat slow

Chewing your food thoroughly helps promote full digestion and absorption of nutrients. This may help you reduce digestive discomfort and maintain a healthy gut. This also lets your body know when you are full by taking the time to eat your food mindfully. Take the time to eat your meals and enjoy it! As humans, it’s common for us to rush through eating or other tasks in our life. Just slow down and enjoy where you are.

Water. Water. Water.

You hear this all the time, stay hydrated. There are numerous benefits of drinking water, including a beneficial effect on the mucosal lining of the intestines and on the balance of good bacteria in the gut. Get a water bottle you love and bring it everywhere with you!

Change your diet

Reducing the amount of processed, high-sugar, and high-fat foods that you eat can contribute to better gut health. Additionally, eating plenty of plant-based foods and lean protein can positively impact your gut.

Types of food for gut health

Your diet plays a big role in your gut health. Avoid processed foods, high-fat foods, and foods high in refined sugars because these foods destroy good bacteria and promote growth of damaging bacteria. On the bright side there are foods that actively promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, contributing to your overall health. These foods include:

·        High-fiber foods: legumes, beans, peas, oats, bananas, berries, asparagus, and leeks have shown a positive impact on gut health innumerous ways

·        Garlic and onion

·        Fermented foods: kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, tempeh, miso, and kefir are great dietary sources of probiotics.

·        Collagen: bone broth, salmon, supplements (See our Supplements to add to your routine here)

The human gut has a huge impact on whole-body health. A healthy gut contributes to a strong immune system, heart health, brain health, improved mood, healthy sleep, and effective digestion, and it may help prevent some cancers and autoimmune diseases. There are a number of lifestyle changes you can make to positively affect your gut health and your overall health as a result.