Nurture Your Gut for Better Health

Stacie Crozier

Do you struggle with gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, acid reflux, changes in stool or unexplained weight loss?

You may be one of the 60-70 million Americans who struggle with digestive issues like gastroesophageal reflux disorder, Crohn’s disease, or irritable bowel syndrome.

Or maybe you don’t have a digestive disorder, but if you live with a chronic health condition like heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, obesity, cancer, or even autism, you may also need to shore up your gut health to ease symptoms and improve your overall health.

According to WebMD, there are 300-500 different bacteria in an individual’s unique gut microbiome. Your gut bacteria are a mix partly determined by genetics and partly by diet and lifestyle. People with chronic diseases may have too much or not enough of certain gut bacteria, which means the gut environment may not protect them against certain ailments or provide enough anti-inflammatory support.

What can disrupt the balance of your gut health?

  • Stress—even short-term stress can harm your gut health. Strive to get enough sleep, exercise and quiet time/meditation to keep your stress levels manageable.
  • Eating too much fat, sugar or artificial sweeteners—typical Western diets high in sugar, fake sugar or fat can alter the gut biome and raise disease risks.
  • Taking unnecessary antibiotics—besides putting yourself at risk for antibiotic resistance, taking antibiotics you don’t need can destroy helpful gut bacteria.
  • Smoking—research has shown that smoking can alter the gut biome and even contribute to the development of disease, particularly inflammatory bowel diseases.

Making good food choices can help promote a healthy gut. Focus on high fiber foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and legumes and try adding fermented foods—plain unsweetened yogurt and kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha are natural sources of probiotics. And the larger the variety of foods in your diet, the better your gut health will be.

If you are trying to control digestive woes, you might consider:

  • Eliminating dairy—if you notice you have gas, boating or diarrhea after drinking milk, you may be lactose intolerant.
  • Probiotics—research has shown that people who have taken antibiotics or are recovering from diarrhea can benefit from a limited course of probiotics, but eating yogurt, sauerkraut and kimchi are also helpful.
  • Try a low FODMAP diet—people with IBS may find relief by eating foods low in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols—sugars that aren’t properly absorbed in the gut.

Ask your doctor about more strategies to promote good gut health and overall wellness.

February 2, 2022

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