We all know we need to listen to our gut…but can anyone tell me where the heck my gut is? Could you point it out on a map of the human body? I know it’s somewhere in the torso region—but what is the gut and why is it so important?
Here’s the 411:
The “gut” comes from the term “gastrointestinal tract,” i.e. the hollow organs of the digestive system. It begins with the mouth, and includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine— the grand finale being when food exits out the other end.
This tract processes food, ideally without discomfort. But an estimated 70 million people in the United States suffer from digestive diseases. Signs of gut health problems include abdominal pain, bloating, heartburn, and nausea.
Think of your gut as your personal plumbing system. As food provides your body’s fuel, it’s important to keep your pipes clean.
So, how can you improve your gut health?
1. Eat slowly.
By chewing your food completely and mindfully, you’re promoting the full absorption of nutrients and can mitigate digestive discomfort.
2. Take your probiotics/supplements.
This one is huge. Believe it or not—your body actually likes certain types of bacteria. Probiotics (like this one) contain live bacteria and yeasts that specifically help with gut health. Apple cider vinegar also contains natural probiotics.
In addition, digestive enzymes can help break down and improve the absorption of proteins, fats, carbs, sugar, fruit fiber, vegetable fiber, and dairy.
(Also, no big deal…but you can now bundle all three supplements here for an ultra-healthy gut).
3. Reduce your sugar and alcohol intake.
Too much sugar and/or alcohol can cause “gut dysbiosis”—an imbalance of gut microbes. Since the gut is a microbiome containing good (and sometimes bad) bacteria, flooding it with sugars, sweeteners, or alcohol can throw off its equilibrium.
4. Reduce stress levels.
If you need proof that mental health and the gut are deeply connected, think about the butterflies that flutter in your stomach when you get nervous. Gut health experts call this the “gut-brain connection” and even refer to the gut as “the second brain.” Hence why they say to trust your gut.
That being said, your mental health can affect your gut health. Check out these tips for understanding and overcoming burnout.
Researchers have found that exercise promotes an increase in diversity of healthy gut bacteria. In particular, high-intensity aerobic training and longer workouts promote a happy, healthy gut.
Just try not to go so hard you spew your guts out.
Now go forth into the world and show off your newfound gut knowledge!
This article was written by Melissa Pelowski. Interested in writing for us too? Email your pitch to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.