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Gut Health

While some of us suffer the occasional gut pain from eating too much of something that doesn’t agree with us, the state of your natural gut bacteria can affect your health in numerous other ways. When the amount of good gut bacteria gets out of balance with bad gut bacteria, it can cause symptoms like depression, nausea, weight gain, and immune system problems.

Although it sounds unpleasant, there are many ways to restore gut health, such as eating a healthy diet rich in probiotics and prebiotics. In fact, you may even be able to treat common conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), eczema, and many others. Find a provider at Optimum Hormone Balance to learn more about gut health treatments!

What is Gut Health?

Think of your gastrointestinal tract as a garden, filled with healthy plants and a few weeds. MICROBIOME is the term we use to describe our gut “garden.” It is full of good and bad gut bacteria (microbes), including bacteria, yeasts, and viruses. Good gut bacteria perform many important functions, including:

  • Aiding the immune system
  • Serotonin (the feel-good chemical) signaling
  • Turning food into energy
  • Removing foreign substances and toxins from the body
  • Production of essential vitamins

When our bad bacteria and yeasts become too plentiful and upset our microbiome, it creates an imbalance known as dysbiosis. Causes of poor gut health can include a diet that’s low in probiotics or fiber and high in sugar and simple carbohydrates, chronic stress, or repeated use of antibiotic medications. Symptoms of an unhealthy gut can include:

  • Diarrhea, constipation, or bloating
  • Nausea
  • Heartburn
  • Craving sweets, sugary foods and simple carbohydrates
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Depression
  • Trouble sleeping or insomnia
  • Skin rashes and eczema
  • Trouble concentrating

Poor gut health may also increase your risk of a number of conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and other auto-immune and inflammatory conditions.

Restoring Gut Health

One important way to improve gut health is to learn which foods are harmful or helpful, and then change our eating style to improve health. Foods and drinks that may harm your gut include:

  • Processed foods
  • Breads, pastas, chips, crackers, cereals, and white rice
  • Alcohol
  • Foods and drinks high in sugar (sodas and sweets)

Foods that may benefit gut health include those rich in probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts naturally found in the healthy digestive tract, while prebiotics are fibers and carbohydrates that are digested by the gut microbiome and promote the reproduction and growth of friendly bacteria.

The two main kinds of probiotics are:

  • Lactobacillus, perhaps the most common type, it is found in fermented foods like yogurt and kefir, and may help patients with diarrhea, as well as those who are lactose intolerant
  • Bifidobacterium, also found in dairy products, may help ease IBS symptoms

Probiotics help send food through your gut by affecting nerves that control gut movement. Besides helping diarrhea and IBS, research suggests that probiotics may also be able to:

  • Treat skin conditions like eczema
  • Treat urinary and vaginal conditions
  • Boost the immune system against allergies, colds, and auto-immune diseases

Foods that are rich in prebiotics include:

  • High fiber foods like green peas, black beans, and bananas
  • Whole oats
  • Garlic, Onions and leeks
  • Okra
  • Soy beans
  • Apples
  • Asparagus

While found in many foods, both probiotics and prebiotics can be taken as gut health supplements. Though safe for the majority of people, ask your healthcare provider if taking probiotics or prebiotics is right for you. You should also avoid using medical antibiotics unless recommended by a healthcare provider, as these destroy good bacteria along with the bad.

Other gut health foods include:

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Sauerkraut
  • Mangoes
  • Wild salmon
  • Chocolate (in moderation)

Gut Health and Weight Loss

There is evidence to suggest that your gut health may directly influence your weight. Evidence suggests that people born by cesarean section (C-section) are more likely to be obese and have diabetes than those that traveled the birth canal and “gulped” friendly bacteria during birth. Also, formula-fed babies are shown to be more susceptible to obesity later in life.

Gut bacteria play a crucial role in breaking down the food we eat and its absorption into the bloodstream, and it is believed that certain gut bacteria are better at breaking down food than others; while slim people have been shown to have a vast number of gut bacterium species, obese people have fewer gut bacterium species. Also, having high levels of bad gut bacteria may also cause low-grade inflammation, spiking appetite.

Besides helping improve gut health, probiotics may help increase production of the satiety hormone GLP-1, which reduces appetite. The probiotic Lactobacillus may reduce weight and belly fat, and other probiotics may prevent weight gain.

Gut Health and Anxiety

There is evidence to suggest that your microbiome may influence your mood. The gut-brain connection is a well-established phenomenon, as the brain can cause the gut to react in situations of excitement or dread. It is believed that gut bacteria may affect the brain as well, specifically, your behavior and mood. The probiotic bacteria called Lactobacillus rhamnosus contains a neurotransmitter called GABA that helps regulate brain activity and can calm anxiety. It is possible that certain diets could change your gut bacteria to improve conditions like autism and hyperactivity, though more research is needed to confirm this. Studies demonstrated reduction in symptoms of both autism and ADHD when gut health was improved.

Request Your Appointment Today

You should never have to suffer from nausea, diarrhea, or any other symptoms of poor gut health. Take control of your microbiome today! To schedule an appointment with a gut health specialist, find a provider here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What foods are best for gut health?

The best foods for gut health are fermented foods like yogurt and kefir, and high fiber foods like green peas, black beans, and bananas.

What kills the good bacteria in your gut?

Causes of poor gut health can include a diet low in probiotics or fiber, stress, too many sweets and simple carbohydrates, or an overuse of antibiotic medication.

What supplements are good for the gut?

While found in many foods, both probiotics and prebiotics can be taken as supplements. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts naturally found in the digestive tract, while prebiotics are fibers and carbohydrates that are digested by the gut microbiome. Both help with the growth and balance of good gut bacteria. Though safe for the majority of people, ask your healthcare provider if taking probiotics or prebiotics is right for you.

What are the symptoms of an unhealthy gut?

Symptoms of an unhealthy gut may include diarrhea, nausea, weight loss or gain, depression, lack of concentration, and even some auto-immune and inflammatory diseases.

How can I increase the good bacteria in my gut?

Ways to increase the good bacteria in your gut include eating a diet rich in probiotics and prebiotics, avoiding processed, sugary foods, and avoiding unnecessary use of antibiotics.

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