The Importance of Gut Health and How to Improve It
What is digestion?
Digestion is the process of breaking down food and then turning that food into nutrients so that the body can use it for daily function, growth and repair in the body. Your digestive tract is a long twisting tube that starts in your mouth and ends in the anus. The muscles in your digestive tract control the movement of food and create enzymes that break down your food. The three organs that determine how well you digest food are your liver, gallbladder and pancreas.
So what actually happens to your food once it enters your mouth?
The 6 steps involved in the process of digestion.
- INGESTION – This is when food enters the mouth and begins to break down from us chewing and mixing it with our saliva.
- PROPULSION – The process of swallowing food. This is when food moves on to its next destination, which is the oesophagus. To get there we contract our muscles in our throat, which help push the food into the oesophagus
- MECHANICAL – The process of breaking down food in the mouth without changing its chemical nature
- CHEMICAL – This is when food is broken down into its chemical form so that our body can use the nutrients for energy and daily function. The protein you consume break down into amino acids. Fats consumed break down into fatty acids and glycerol and Carbohydrates break down into simple sugars.
- ABSORPTION – Once the food is digested, it can be absorbed and can travel into the bloodstream for use.
- DEFECATION – The final step in digestion where undigested materials are removed from the body as faeces.
Signs that you have an imbalanced gut
Research in the last two decades shows us that gut health is critical to our overall health. When our gut is imbalanced it can lead to many health issues. The most obvious symptom of gut dysfunction is bloating, gas and diarrhoea. In a nutshell, it comes down to how healthy your bacteria is and having the correct ratio of good and bad bacteria in your gut, so that you can digest food efficiently.
Sugar cravings – If you're always craving sweets, this usually a sign of an imbalance in your gut. Sugars have very low nutritional value and are super high in glycemic load which means our bodies can go through vicious cycles of bingeing which leads to inflammation and imbalance in insulin levels
Bad breath – If your noticing consecutive days of bad breath, you’ve probably developed a condition called halitosis. This unpleasant odour comes from your gums, in between your teeth and tongue. The main cause of your bad breath is called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Food allergies – Foods that contain gluten, dairy, soy, legumes and nuts can cause bloating immediately in the stomach, which then leads to poor digestion. Be mindful and listen to your body, if your sensitive to a certain food find an alternative so you don’t further complicate things in your gut
Moodiness, anxiety & depression – We have happy hormones called dopamine and serotonin, and they heavily rely on how healthy our gut bacteria is. 95% of our serotonin is produced in our gut and about 50% of dopamine is also produced in the gut.
Skin conditions - If you’re experiencing eczema, rosacea or psoriasis there is potential inflammation and compromised liver function as well. These skin irritations are triggered by an immune response in the body, which means – we are eating something that our body does not particularly like. The common culprits are gluten and dairy but it can also come from fish, eggs, soy, nuts, refined oils and alcohol
Managing and improving your gut health
If you are experiencing any of the above conditions, here are some times on how to improve your gut health, for better overall health:
Lowering stress levels – Try yoga, meditation, massages, walking or reducing caffeine.
Sleep – Set yourself a routine and try getting into the bed at the same time every night. Aim for 7-9 hours every night.
Eat slowly for better digestion and absorption of nutrients
Supplement with a pre/probiotic