Gut health appears to be the latest most confusing topic. The most common question I’ve been asked recently is ‘should I be taking probiotics?’ Before we jump straight to it I’m going to explain the key factors you should understand about gut health before heading straight to probiotics for the answer.
Most commonly associated with gut health is healthy digestion. However, a healthy gut can play such an important role in an overall healthy body and healthy mind. Whilst I will explain some of the factors which are associated with poor gut health, please be aware that these are not the only cause of the issues.
Sleep: Research has shown that sleep deprivation can be associated with imbalanced gut microbiota. Simultaneously an imbalance in gut microbiome can lead to increased inflammation which consequently can impact your quality and length of sleep.
Skin: Some research has suggested that there is a relationship between inflammation in the gut and acne. The skin is often very much a reflection of the inside of our bodies. Consequently inflammation in the gut or chronic stress can often lead to poor skin.
Inflammation: Following on from the comments on skin, poor gut health is very heavily linked to inflammation, immune function and digestive disorders. Leaky gut syndrome is a common issue related to poor gut health and often exhibits symptoms of the above.
Mental Well Being: Recent research has studied the gut-brain axis which shows the complex relationship between the central nervous system (present in the brain) and the gastrointesintal tract. The gut-brain axis plays key roles in a variety of tasks including: metabolism, satiety and insulin secretion. However, this axis has also shown a relationship between emotional behaviour and gut health. It can be through the gut-brain axis that stress identifies itself as a factor in poor digestion and intestinal cramps which are a result of the stimulation of the CNS and autonomic nervous system.
Weight: Research has suggested that the type of microbiome present in our gut may play a key role in appetite regulation and consequently in weight gain, loss and maintenance.
Evidently, gut health plays a key role in a variety of issues and not just digestion. Therefore, as the growing body of evidence emerges constantly showing us how key our gut health is it becomes even more essential that we look after it properly.
Ways in which I recommend looking after your gut health:
1. Eat probiotic foods – prebiotics help to feed the microbiota which is already present in your gut. Pre-biotic foods include: garlic, onions, sauerkraut, bananas, apples and leeks to name a few.
2. Consume a variety of probiotic foods – these foods will provide the gut with beneficial bacteria. Foods such as yoghurts, kefir, kombucha and kimchii.
3. Get a good nights sleep – if you struggle to sleep try taking an Epsom salt bath before bed. The magnesium in the Epsom salts is absorbed through your skin causing your muscles to relax.
Should you have any of the issues listed above it would be recommended to visit a nutritionist or health care professional before embarking on a course of probiotics. Whilst probiotics can be hugely beneficial they are not for everyone. It is essential that you get advice targeted towards your specific issue as to the dose, the type and the length of the course.
Kinnucan, J. A., Rubin, D. T., & Ali, T. (2013). Sleep and inflammatory bowel disease: exploring the relationship between sleep disturbances and inflammation. Gastroenterology & hepatology, 9(11), 718.
Singh, V. A., & Bunger, R. (2014). Probiotics and gut health. J. Int. Med. Sci. Acad, 27(1), 41-43.
Bowe, W. P., & Logan, A. C. (2011). Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis-back to the future?. Gut pathogens, 3(1), 1.