KNOW YOUR GUT: A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO GUT HEALTH
Remember the days when no-carb diets and the Master Cleanse were the hottest dieting fads to hit the market and the epitome of what it meant to be healthy and glowing?
Well, fast forward a few years, and those trends have now been replaced with kimchi, kombucha, and kefir. Wondering why? Well, if there's one thing that's prettier than glowing on the outside, it's glowing from the inside. Enter: The gut health epidemic. However, unlike its predecessors, 'gut health' is one health trend that's here to stay...and for a good reason!
Keen to know how your gut works, why it's so important, and how to help it thrive? Let's get started!
What is your gut, and how does it work?
To understand why gut health is so important, it's vital first to understand what the gut is and how it works. Your gut, also known as your digestive tract, is a 10-meter long tube that incorporates the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, pancreas, and liver. Your gut consists of trillions of organisms (yep, you read that correctly), which we often refer to as the 'microbiome.' The microbiome contains everything from bacteria and fungi to viruses and various other microscopic organisms.
Your gut's primary role is to process and break down food so that the nutrients can be absorbed into your bloodstream, where they can then be delivered to your cells to maximize energy, growth, and repair. Additionally, if your gut is healthy, it should also remove the harmful bacteria, undigested food particles, and toxins from your gut and prevent them from leaking into your bloodstream. If your gut lining becomes permeable, it may activate your immune system and cause inflammation, food sensitivities, and various other negative symptoms throughout the gastrointestinal system and the rest of your body.
FUN FACT: Much like a fingerprint, every person has a unique microbiome, which means that everyone's mix of bacteria is slightly different. Your microbiome is determined partly by your diet and lifestyle and partly by your mother's microbiome (the environment that you're exposed to at birth).
Why is gut health so important?
To simplify an incredibly complex process: Inside your gut lives over 40 trillion chemists that work around the clock to help digest your meals, produce essential nutrients, safeguard you from disease and influence what parts of your DNA manifest and which remain dormant. These microbes play a crucial role in determining your appetite, allergies, metabolism, neurological function, and, believe it or not, your mood!
There's no place more important for diversity than in your microbiome. In fact, a healthy gut is dependent on these organisms existing in their natural state of balance (with balance being the key to a healthy gut). Maintaining the right balance of these microorganisms is vital for physical health, mental health, immunity, mood, and more.
The issue? In today's day and age, poor gut health is becoming increasingly common as the ideal organism balance is becoming increasingly less common. From the toxins we're constantly exposed to and put in our bodies, the varying levels of stress in our lives, our poor food choices, the hormones in our food, and the medication (namely, antibiotics) we consume over a lifetime, many factors contribute to a compromised microbiome, and subsequently, our overall health. What does this mean? When there's an imbalance in the microbiome, it generally means the bad bacteria outweigh the good bacteria. Good bacteria is imperative to good gut health. It plays a vital role in digestion, nutrient absorption, metabolism regulation, weight loss, mood improvements, brain function, and protection against inflammation and infection.
Did we lose you along the way? Let's do a quick recap. The health of the gastrointestinal system is imperative to your overall wellbeing. Your gut is largely responsible for your body's digestive and immune systems. As such, having good bacteria in your digestive system is extremely important for vitamin and mineral absorbency, hormone regulation, digestion, vitamin production, immune response, toxin elimination, and mental health.
How can you help your gut thrive?
If you're familiar with history, you've likely heard of the name 'Hippocrates.' As The Father of Western Medicine, Hippocrates conceptualized the notion that "all disease begins in the gut." Fast forward a couple of thousand years, and modern science mirrors the same sentiment that we are what we eat. What does this mean? The key to a thriving gut and optimal all-around health relies heavily on the quality of nutrients that we consume. As such, here are our top tips for a thriving gut:
1. Cut down on the sweet stuff
It should be no surprise that good bacteria are necessary for good gut health. But, what does this mean from a lifestyle and dietary perspective? Well, steering clear of sugary treats and artificial sweeteners is a great place to start. Consuming a diet rich in sugar is known to cause gut dysbiosis, which is an imbalance of gut microbes. While the connection is not completely clear, it is theorized that an imbalance of gut bacteria can affect the immune system and the health of the gut lining, which can ultimately make you more susceptible to certain diseases and illnesses.
Instead, focus on incorporating a more diverse range of healthy foods into your diet. Wondering why? Your intestines are made up of hundreds of species of bacteria, with each species playing a specific role in your health and requiring different nutrients for growth. The more species of bacteria you have, the more health benefits you can enjoy, which is why a diverse microbiota is considered a healthy one.
2. Increase your veggie intake
Guess what? There's some profound truth behind your mum nagging you about eating your veggies growing up. Fruits and vegetables are some of the best sources of nutrients for a healthy microbiota. But, why? Vegetables are high in fiber, which generally cannot be digested by your body but can be digested by specific gut bacteria. This stimulates the growth of bacteria in the gut and increases the number of good bacteria working tirelessly to keep your gut happy.
Try adding the following high-fiber fruits and vegetables to your diet: raspberries, green peas, broccoli, chickpeas, lentils, whole grains, kidney beans, and artichokes.
3. Embrace Fermented Foods
Believe it or not, the fermented food fad isn't just a trend after all. Fermented foods benefit the microbiota by improving its function and minimizing the growth of disease-causing bacteria.
As a process, fermenting generally occurs when the sugars found in certain foods are converted into organic acids and/or alcohols by bacteria or yeasts. As a result of fermentation, these foods are generally rich in beneficial health-promoting bacteria known as Lactobacillus. Examples of healthy fermented foods include yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, tempeh, kefir, and kimchi.
4. Consume polyphenol-rich foods
Polyphenols are plant compounds found in many food sources, including cocoa and dark chocolate (yes, we're permitting you to eat more chocolate), grape skins, green tea, almonds, onions, broccoli, and red wine (yep, you read that correctly). From helping to reduce blood pressure and inflammation to lowering cholesterol levels and oxidative stress, polyphenols boast a variety of health benefits!
But how do polyphenols help gut health? Polyphenols can't be digested efficiently by human cells, which is why most head down to the colon, where gut bacteria can more easily break them down. For example, the polyphenols found in cocoa and red wine are suggested to increase the quantity of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli (good bacteria).
5. NutraKey NAC
Responsible for the production of Glutathione - arguably the body's most potent antioxidant contributing to a multitude of health benefits, including combatting free radicals, liver detoxing, immune and gut health, N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is a semi-essential amino acid gaining traction in the wellness world for its many health-enhancing functions. So, how does it benefit gut health? The small intestine rapidly metabolizes NAC to produce the potent antioxidant Glutathione, which then goes through a conversion process, ultimately helping maintain the integrity, growth, and function of the intestinal mucosa. It benefits intestinal health by modulating intestinal inflammation and absorbency.
Pharmaceutical Grade NutraKey NAC is ultra micronized for maximum bioavailability and made with the purest ingredients to produce benefits that alter the course of your health from the inside out.
For more about NutraKey NAC, Click here.