If you've been lucky enough to see Ben and I out in the wild doing a demo, you've likely heard us mention "gut health" in reference to some of our shots - namely our ACV + Ginger & Lemon shot. This often results in a raised eyebrow or maybe even a smile and nod, but we rarely get to go into detail on the importance of gut health...until now. In today's blog, we're going to dive into the gut (not literally) and how taking care of it can drastically improve your overall health.
Before getting into the importance of gut health, it's necessary to explain the gut microbiome and how it works. The "microbiome" consists of a wide array of bacteria, both good and bad. Several factors influence the makeup of one's unique microbiome, including (but not limited to): genetics, physical environment, and diet.
Despite the fact that some microbes in the gut are generally considered harmful, the good and bad organisms are able to coexist without issues in most healthy people. However, a disturbance in the balance of these microbes (due to things like stress, poor diet, and excessive antibiotics) can interrupt this symbiosis, and leave the body more susceptible to infection and disease.
Now that we know how the gut microbiome operates, let's take a look at how it can impact different bodily functions.
Given that a majority of the digestion process happens in the gut, it should come as no surprise that how well your gut functions plays a major role in your ability to break down food properly. Those who have an imbalance in the gut tend to experience things like bloating, indigestion, acid reflux, and stomach aches after eating.
Maintaining a proper ratio of good and bad bacteria leads to the production of more effective digestive enzymes, so your body has an easier time turning the food you eat into fuel for your body.
The ancient philosopher Hippocrates is often credited with saying, "all disease begins in the gut" and he certainly wasn't too far off. You likely know that the immune system is responsible for fighting infection, but you may not be familiar with the fact that about 70% of it resides in the gut. Therefore, any problems with the microbiome will influence your body's ability to attack any bad bacteria that could make you sick.
So if you want to start bolstering your immune system, it would make sense to start by focusing on the foundation.
The third - and arguably most important - system whose function is influenced by the gut is the brain. The gut is responsible for sending signals to the brain to alert the body of things like hunger, so when there are more bad bacteria in the gut than good, these signals and pathways become impaired. So a poorly maintained gut microbiome can manifest itself in symptoms such as brain fog, trouble concentrating, and headaches.
Next time you're struggling with focus or mental clarity, think about how you've been treating your gut.
How can you improve gut health?
Luckily, if you're someone who struggles with maintaining a healthy microbiome, there are ways to restore balance and alleviate any issues you may be experiencing. The first - and maybe most obvious - is auditing your diet. A good start would be limiting processed foods and incorporating more whole and fermented foods (like apple cider vinegar).
Stress is another external stimulus that can lead to less-than-ideal gut health. Though it's hard to completely eliminate stress in one's life, taking some time for mindfulness and ignoring the latest news cycle might be a good start.
Finally, if you're someone who only gets 4-6 hours of sleep per night, that may be another area to focus on if you're committed to improving gut health. Getting enough sleep is essential for nearly every process and organ in your body, and the gut microbiome is no exception.