Gut Health 101: A Proactive Approach To A Healthy You
Your gut is a very complex ecosystem of bacteria where trillions of microorganisms reside. Not only does it break down and absorb nutrients from foods, but a healthy gut can also help modulate your immune system, promote skin health, regulate hormone production, and even support your mental health by boosting your mood. Maintaining a healthy gut is a powerful way to support whole-body health.
What Does A 'Healthy Gut' Mean?
Optimal gut health means having the right balance of good and bad bacteria so that the beneficial ones outnumber the pathogenic ones. A healthy gut also means having microbial diversity, meaning different types of microorganisms - bacteria, fungi, and viruses - that produce beneficial outcomes for the host (your gut). When your gut microbiome is in balance, these organisms produce important nutrients and compounds such as short-chain fatty acids, which benefit your long-term health.
Gut health is heavily influenced by lifestyle factors such as diet, stress, medications, infections, and disease. With a healthy gut, you should be able to tolerate a variety of foods, feel full, and experience slight normal bloating after eating, but this should subside within a few hours. You should also produce and pass gasses throughout the day and have regular, easy-to-pass, formed bowel movements.
What Is Gut Dysbiosis?
Gut dysbiosis is the imbalance of gut microbiota, in which there is a loss of beneficial bacteria and a growth of pathogenic ones. This alteration in microbiome composition is associated with undesirable health outcomes as it can trigger inflammation and weaken the immune system.
Gut dysbiosis can also lead to intestinal permeability, or "leaky gut," which can contribute to food sensitivities and nutrient malabsorption. It is also associated with many chronic conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), autoimmune disease, skin disorders, and even cardiovascular disease.
Reasons Why Your Gut Might Be Out Of Balance
There are many diet and lifestyle factors that contribute to gut dysbiosis, including:
- Diets lacking fiber and prebiotic foods
- Diets high in processed foods and refined sugars
- Excess alcohol consumption
- Overuse of antibiotics
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Poor sleeping habits
- High-stress levels
- Bacterial infections
Signs that your gut may be out of balance
Generally, when you experience symptoms that interfere with your quality of life, or your ability to eat and digest food, that could be a sign your gut is out of balance. The physical symptoms of gut dysbiosis differ from person to person, but may often include:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Excessive gas and abdominal distention (bloating)
- Fatigue or low energy
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Food sensitivities or allergies
- Skin reactions and rashes
- Blood in stool
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Anxiety, mood changes, irritability
- Difficult sleeping
If you suspect your gut is out of balance, taking steps to identify and address the root cause is important for your health and quality of life. Additionally, you can incorporate supportive supplements that aim to soothe, repair, and strengthen the gut. Blueshift's Gut Health blend combines aminos, botanicals, probiotics, and targeted nutrients that support intestinal integrity, and ease abdominal discomfort.
4 Strategies To Support Optimal Gut Health
1. Get a proper diagnosis
Signs of gut dysbiosis can often be the same as many gastrointestinal conditions, so it can be difficult to pinpoint the root cause of your symptoms on your own.
One mistake people often make is using the internet or at-home testing kits to self-diagnose. By doing that, you might start to unnecessarily eliminate healthy foods from your diet, which could lead to nutrient deficiencies. Even if your symptoms improve, you will likely not determine or address the root cause, which can be problematic in the long term.
Instead, it's always best to consult with a gastroenterologist so he or she can run the appropriate diagnostic tests, rule out gastrointestinal conditions, and help you find the root cause of your symptoms so you can receive the proper medical diagnosis and the right treatment.
2. Consume adequate dietary fiber
Fiber is extremely beneficial for gut health. Because it goes through your gastrointestinal tract undigested, fiber adds bulk and softens the stool, promoting healthy digestion and helping to prevent constipation.
Most importantly, some types of fiber – such as prebiotic fiber – serve as food for the good bacteria in your gut, favoring the growth of beneficial microbes over pathogenic ones, thus supporting a healthy gut balance.
Given that fiber is only found in plants, incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, is an excellent way to increase your fiber intake. Women should aim for a minimum of 25 grams of fiber per day, and men should aim for a minimum of 38 grams of fiber per day.
3. Manage your stress levels
The gut has its own nervous system, which is able to communicate with your central nervous system. Although research is still emerging, we now know this gut-brain connection plays a role in both our physical and mental health.
Stress and anxiety can trigger the body's "fight or flight" mode, which in turn causes physiological changes to the body, such as a decrease in blood flow to your digestive system. This in turn slows down or disrupts digestion, which can result in cramping, nausea, diarrhea, and constipation. If it persists for longer periods, stress can lead to inflammation in the gut and promote gut dysbiosis.
Working with a qualified therapist can be an effective approach for addressing emotional stress and learning new tools for healthy stress management. Also, incorporating stress management exercises into your daily routine, such as breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga, is a great way to manage chronic stress and anxiety to support your gut and whole-body health.
4. Incorporate probiotics and prebiotics into your diet
Probiotics are live microorganisms that help support the diversity and abundance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, while prebiotics serve as food for existing colonies of good bacteria in your gut microbiome. Probiotics and prebiotics can be found in the form of food and supplements, both of which can be effective for supporting gut health.
Probiotic-rich foods include fermented foods such as fermented vegetables (sauerkraut), dairy products (yogurt), beverages (kombucha), and soybeans (natto). Prebiotic foods include fruits such as bananas, apples, and grapefruit, as well as vegetables such as artichokes, garlic, onions, and asparagus. Legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds also provide prebiotics.
Although some foods contain probiotics and prebiotics, we don't always get enough quantity or variety of these foods in our daily diet to support optimal gut health. A daily supplement, combined with a nutritious diet, can be an effective way to support a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut.
Blueshift's Pre + Probiotic Ultra blend packs 50 billion CFUs (colony-forming units) of the ten most beneficial probiotic strains to support microbial diversity and abundance. It's also packed with gut nourishing plant-powered prebiotics and clinically-proven PreForProⓇ, a novel blend of prebiotic bacteriophages that fight pathogens and feed beneficial bacteria to support a healthy, balanced microbiome.
A Long-Term Approach To Healthy Gut
Given the close relationship between the gut and our physical and mental health, gut health is something to prioritize and be proactive about. By being proactive and incorporating gut-supportive habits such as eating a fiber-rich diet, practicing stress management, and taking a daily probiotic supplement, you can avoid many gastrointestinal problems, while promoting your overall health and well-being.