Your gut health is the gateway to your overall health. It is where the external meets the internal environment and beings at your mouth and ends at your rectum. It is a highly complex system that we interact with continuously from eating and drinking to performing bodily functions, every single day.
The gastrointestinal system is highly susceptible to damage from toxins, food choices, medications, alcohol, stress and more. This could be the reason gut conditions have become more common in the general population. Diet choices and lifestyle practices can help you balance and restore your gut health thus supporting overall internal harmony and contributing to optimal health.
Symptoms of digestive dysfunction
As you may know, digestive dysfunction can be uncomfortable and debilitating with symptoms such as gas and bloating regularly becoming normal. These symptoms are not normal and with a healthy digestive function, you should not experience these symptoms regularly. Such symptoms are your body’s signs indicating your gastrointestinal system is not functioning properly. Other common signs and symptoms include:
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Skin conditions
- Allergies and intolerances
- Food sensitivities
- Low energy
- Mood swings
- Inability to focus
- Anxiety and stress
- Muscle aches and pains
- Abdominal pain
The gut microbiota
The term to describe the dynamic community of microorganisms in the gut is ‘microbiota’. It includes bacteria, fungi, viruses, archaea and protozoans, providing the individual with an abundance of cells and genes, existing on and in the body. Approximately 95% of these microorganisms can be found in the gastrointestinal tract.
Within the gut microbiota, there are around a thousand species of bacteria, which all play a different role in the body. Some of these bacteria are beneficial and others are harmful. When there are more harmful bacteria than beneficial, this creates an imbalance and this is when dysbiosis may occur.
Dysbiosis indicates poor gut health and may not only contribute to a number of digestive symptoms but may also compromise your entire body function. From nutrient absorption from foods to energy levels, weight management, mental health, skin conditions and the way our immune system functions. Here are some of the ways the gut and other body systems are interconnected.
1. The gut and immune system
The relationship between the gut and the immune system is complex and interesting as they are both completely intertwined. Approximately 70%-80% of our immune system resides in our gut thus maintaining the health of our gut is critical to support optimal immune function.
In a healthy individual, the immune system promotes the growth of beneficial microbes in the gut and vice versa, a healthy gut supports the development of immune cells and the fine-tuning of the immune response. Healthy communication between our gut and the immune system supports a protective response against pathogens.
2. The gut and brain axis
You may have heard the gut referred to as the body’s ‘second brain’ as there are millions of nerve cells that reside in there. This term refers to the large percentage of the body’s chemical messengers that are responsible for your mood and are produced in the gut.
A very intricate communication exists called the gut-brain axis which contributes to an individual’s overall health. This bi-directional communication channel influences the gut as your gut and brain send messages to each other and connects the emotional and cognitive centres of the brain. This is why a number of emotions and experiences can be felt in your gut and may explain the ‘butterflies’ in your tummy when you get nervous.
Digestive disorders often go hand in hand with a poor mood, brain fog, an inability to concentrate and stress revealing how both systems can affect your overall health.
3. The gut and skin connection
Our skin can act as a window into our health, providing an insight into what is going on in our body from nutrient deficiencies, inflammation, hydration, stress, sleep and of course digestion. Similar to other systems in the body the state of our gut health closely influences the health of our skin and both benefit from regular nourishment.
As mentioned above, when the gut is in dysbiosis you can experience a number of signs, symptoms and health issues with skin conditions being common. Skin problems are often caused by inflammation (the body’s protective immune response to a threat). When inflammation is present, our gut health is compromised and this can turn into systemic inflammation creating oxidative stress, blood sugar imbalances, increased pathogenic bacteria etc. which all shows up on our skin.
By nourishing our gut we not only support a healthy gut microbiota yet we also support our skin health from the inside out.
Two key ways to support your gut health
Both prebiotics and probiotics play a key role to improve the function of the gut microbiota aiming to increase the abundance of friendly bacteria in the stomach. Including both of these ‘biotics’ in the diet will help improve gastrointestinal function, reduce inflammation, support digestion, strengthen the immune system and more
Eat prebiotic foods
These are the foods that feed your gut bacteria to support your digestive health and immune system. Prebiotic foods such as fennel, onion, broccoli, garlic and asparagus and foods high in fibre (whole grains, fruit, vegetables) help to feed the bacteria in the gut and increase their numbers and diversity.
These foods help to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which are important for our gut health. SCFAs result from the fermentation of indigestible fibres and support the overall intestinal balance. For example, SCFAs influence a number of cells and functions in the body that can lead to changes in the immune function in the gut as well as influencing immune cells e.g. regulatory T cells (the cells that tell your body how to respond to pathogens and germs).
Probiotics help to populate our gut with good bacteria to support and create a healthy balance. Choose probiotic-rich foods such as kefir, natural yoghurt, miso, sauerkraut, kombucha in your meals daily.
Include a probiotic supplement daily - A probiotic supplement helps to support and benefit your entire gastrointestinal function and increase the beneficial bacteria of the microbiota.
Vitables probiotic is a premium blend of 3 strains of gut-friendly bacteria to support a healthy digestive system and assist with the management of digestive disturbances as well as supporting immune system function. It contains Saccharomyces boulardii (SB), a yeast probiotic that supports beneficial gut flora when used with antibiotics.
SB may assist with inflammatory conditions including IBS. It also works to increase gut immunity and integrity and discourages the growth of harmful microorganisms and pathogens such as travellers diarrhoea.
Taking care of your digestive health and gut microbiota is key to maximising overall health and optimal function. By making changes to your diet and lifestyle you can support the way your gut functions as well as support the balance of other body systems.
Find out more about other areas that supplements can help you with:
*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.