More than 60 million adults are affected by digestive disorders in the U.S. The gut, often referred to as the “second brain”, is home to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, regulating everything from the immune system to digestion. Some of the most common digestive disorders include: Crohn’s Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), constipation, diarrhea and food allergies. While some are hereditary or a result of taking antibiotics, others are brought on by controllable lifestyle choices.
Signs of an unhealthy gut
When managing a pre-existing digestive disorder, some aspects of gut health are uncontrollable. However, knowing the signs of an unhealthy gut can help to identify issues and seek necessary treatment. Symptoms of poor gut health include:
• Chronic bad breath, flatulence or burping
• Excess intestinal gas
• Irregular, infrequent bowel movements
• Chronic diarrhea
• Too little or no intestinal gas
Tips for a healthier gut
• Drink more water: Drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of water daily benefits the gut by circulating nutrients throughout the body, moving out waste and supporting the function of vital organs. Dehydration is also linked to a higher risk of constipation and IBS.
• Relax: The body’s natural response to chronic stress, anxiety and exhaustion is a less efficient immune and digestive system. Ensuring six-eight hours of sleep a night, practicing methods of meditation and taking breaks from daily stressors can all promote a healthier gut.
• Get active: Exercise and weight management have a hand in sustaining healthy bacteria in the gut. Both endorse better circulation, healthier digestion and reduce intestinal inflammation. The daily recommendation is 30 minutes of exercise, accounting for just 2 percent of each day.
• Eat right: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other nutrient-dense foods promote a healthier gut. Over-indulging in foods that contain excess fat, sodium and sugar can disrupt and overwhelm the body’s natural function. It’s also critical to eat regularly and watch portions throughout the day.
• Limit alcohol consumption: Restricting alcohol consumption is said to improve gut health by lowering the risk of intestinal damage while also avoiding an imbalance of bacteria that can lead to more serious digestive disorders over time.
• Consider supplements: Although dietary supplements aren’t the only answer to improving gut health, they can kick start healing in those who have a deficiency of probiotics in their system. Research options, consult a doctor and find what route best suits your body.
Probiotics vs. prebiotics
Gut health is based on the balance of bacteria in the system. Probiotics are “good” bacteria that work to control the growth of harmful bacteria. They aid in proper digestion of food, while efficiently absorbing nutrients in the gut. Prebiotics are what sustain and grow probiotics. If your body was a garden, probiotics would be the flowers and prebiotics would act as the fertilizer.
By Grace Derocha