What’s Going on in Your Gut and How Does It Affect the Rest of Your Body?
Groundbreaking research and advances in biological science have shown that our guts and the bacteria that reside in them have a major impact on the health of our entire bodies. We know that food, nutrition, and health are closely connected, and they all come together in the gut.
We may be able to manage and prevent diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer, and many more through understanding the way our guts work and how to balance the bacteria in them. In this article, we’re looking at the biological mechanisms of the stomach, the way bacteria can affect our health, and how to get you back to a healthy gut.
What Is Gut Flora?
Your gut flora is the massive amount of microbes living in your gastrointestinal tract, made up of different strains of bacteria. Don’t let the sound of bacteria scare you. Bacteria, specifically probiotics, are what processes and digests our food and turns it into energy. This kind of bacteria is essential to a healthy gut and helps keep bad bacteria from taking over inside our bodies and causing harm.
Do You Have a Healthy Gut?
An overflow of harmful bacteria can negatively affect our immune systems and even impact brain function. Imbalanced gut bacteria can even lead to serious conditions such as:
- Colon cancer
- And more
Luckily, our healthy gut bacteria help control the harmful bacteria that cause health issues — but be aware of an imbalance before it results in a serious condition. Ask your doctor about probiotic testing and watch out for the following signs of an imbalanced gut.
Keep in mind that something as common as life stress can lead to an upset stomach and it might feel like your gut flora is not in check. Talk with your doctor about not only the symptoms of your gut issues but any big picture concerns you have as well. You could avoid expensive tests, procedures, and prescriptions by looking at your health in a broader lens.
Signs of an Imbalanced Gut
When the bacteria in your gut are imbalanced (i.e. there’s more bad bacteria than the beneficial kind), your body will tell you with these signs:
- Abdominal pain
- Excess gas
There can also be more serious side effects of an unbalanced gut like autoimmune diseases or a B12 deficiency. If you’re familiar with these abdominal discomforts, be sure to bring them up with your doctor.
How Medicine Affects Your Gut
It’s not just antibiotics that affect our gut flora. Did you know other prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can have a seriously detrimental effect on your gut health? Acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen as well as other painkillers, work by blocking the creation of prostaglandins.
While this effect makes you feel better, the meds can cause gastrointestinal problems by the blocking of prostaglandins which help protect your stomach lining and GI tract. Without prostaglandins, your stomach can become irritated and damaged by gastric acids, sometimes leading to serious health issues like gastritis and bleeding.
How to Get Back to a Healthy Gut
You should avoid unnecessary antibiotics and painkillers whenever possible as these medicines can throw off the bacterial balance in your gut and cause some of the health issues mentioned earlier. But there are plenty of other ways to help get your gut back to a healthy balance. Here are a few things you can do every day:
Eat Foods That Help Digestion
If you’re feeling a little off in your gut, your body might be sending you a message that you could use a little help with digestion. Foods like fruit and leafy vegetables are faster at being digested than others and are best to eat during the day when you need more energy.
Eating wheat, meat, and dairy products can slow down your digestion and make you feel tired and slow all day. Make sure you’re also drinking plenty of water to help things move smoother. Other great foods to help your digestive tract run effectively include:
Get More Probiotics
Another recommendation for maintaining or returning to a balanced and healthy gut is to get more probiotics in there. You could add a high-quality probiotic supplement to your wellness routine, or you could add fermented foods like sauerkraut to your diet.
The probiotics in sauerkraut are beneficial to your health by warding off diseases like arthritis, cancer, and diabetes. The thing that makes sauerkraut special is the fermentation process, which loads this preserved cabbage concoction with billions of helpful bacteria, known as probiotics. But other foods carry beneficial probiotics too; some include:
If you’re not feeling right in your gut, it may be time to speak with your doctor about your symptoms. Just know that the gut requires a fine balance of various bacteria that are extremely beneficial to your health but can be detrimental if the wrong types get out of hand. Be sure to eat a healthy diet and get plenty of probiotic-rich foods to help balance and maintain your health.