Looking to improve your gut health? We share information on how you can reform your gut, help to improve your gut microbiome and relieve the symptoms of IBS or similar digestive-related problems.
If you notice any signs of poor gut health (such as gas, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation), lifestyle factors may help improve them naturally.
The human body contains 100 trillion bacteria which live in our gut. These are collectively known as our gut microbiota. The composition of these microbes varies between individuals and even changes over time. This makes it important to pay attention to what we eat and drink, along with other lifestyle choices, such as exercise.
Why do we need a healthy gut microbiome?
Our gut microbiome plays an integral role in many bodily functions including digestion, immune function, brain development, mood regulation, and metabolism. There is also evidence that suggests that certain types of gut bacteria play a role in preventing cancer and heart disease.
Why gut health matters
Your gut also known as your digestive system, or your GI system digests the foods you eat and absorbs nutrients from them. It then uses those nutrients to fuel your body. A healthy gut means that there is a balanced population of beneficial and harmful microorganisms living within us. A healthy gut will have a diverse community of bacteria, where some species outnumber others.
A healthy gut is one that is able to maintain its own balance without being affected by outside influences. It is not dependent upon external sources for nutrients.
When this balance is disrupted, the result is an unhealthy gut.
This disruption can be caused by diet, stress, medications, toxins, chemicals, infections, antibiotics or lack of sleep.
In addition, the environment surrounding the gut has been found to affect the gut microbiome. For example, if you spend too much time indoors, you could end up with a less diverse gut microbiome than someone who spends more time outdoors.
How does my gut microbiome get unbalanced?
There are several ways that your gut microbiome can become unbalanced.
Eating poorly can lead to imbalances in the gut microbiome. If you consume low fibre diets high in processed carbohydrates, sugar and refined grains, you may find that your gut becomes dominated by harmful bacteria.
Stressful situations can cause your gut microbiome to change. When you experience stressful events, your body releases hormones called glucocorticoids, which can alter the composition of your gut microbiome.
Lack of sleep causes your body to release more cortisol. This can disrupt your circadian rhythm and make it harder to regulate your appetite.
Toxins such as pesticides, heavy metals and chemical pollutants can enter your body through food, water and air. They can damage cells and tissues throughout your body, leading to inflammation and irritation.
Regular physical activity helps keep your muscles strong and supple, but it can also help reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases. However, excessive exercise can lead to muscle soreness and fatigue, which can increase levels of cortisol (a hormone produced by the adrenal glands) in your blood. Cortisol can negatively impact the composition of your gut microbiota.
Antibiotics & Medications
Antibiotic use can disrupt the normal bacterial populations in your gut. This can leave you vulnerable to future infection. Certain medications can alter the composition of the gut microbiome. These include anti-depressants, painkillers, antibiotics and steroids.
Signs and symptoms of an unhealthy gut
There are several ways that an unhealthy gut can be detected. Some of these include:
Gas is produced by some of the bacteria living in our gut. It can be unpleasant to smell and causes bloating. However, if there is too much gas, this could indicate an imbalance in the gut microbiome.
Bloating is caused when there is too much gas being produced by the bacteria in our gut.
If you have frequent bouts of diarrhoea or constipation, this could be due to an imbalance in the gut microbiota.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS is characterised by abdominal pain and discomfort, often accompanied by diarrhoea or constipations. IBS affects around 10% of people worldwide
What Is IBS?
IBS stands for irritable bowel syndrome. It is a condition that affects the gut and digestive system and can cause very unpleasant symptoms, including:
- Stomach pain
IBS is far more common than you may think, affecting around 20% of the UK population. Despite this, there is currently no specific treatment or cure for IBS since it isn’t considered dangerous or life-threatening.
This can feel extremely frustrating for IBS sufferers - once diagnosed, they are almost left in the dark to try and deal with the condition on their own. Many may feel alone or lost, not knowing what to do, and the condition often lasts a lifetime which may be hard to come to terms with.
That’s why IBS awareness month is important - to raise awareness and help those affected to feel less alone and discover the support that may help coping and dealing with the condition.
What causes IBS?
The symptoms of IBS tend to come and go, lasting hours, days, or weeks at a time. These ‘flare ups’ can be triggered by different ingredients or situations depending on the person, for example eating a certain type of food, or experiencing more stress than usual.
The exact cause of IBS is currently unknown, but it has been linked to the following:
- Food passing through the gut too quickly or too slowly
- Oversensitive nerves in the gut
- A family history of IBS
Like we mentioned previously, IBS can’t be cured. However, there are a few lifestyle and diet changes that may help you to manage your symptoms...
How to manage symptoms of IBS
IBS is slightly different for different people, meaning there isn’t one definite way to control your symptoms. It’s worth trying out a few different things to see what works for you.
Here are some ways to help relieve the symptoms of IBS, all recommended by the NHS:
- Keep a food diary and record when symptoms flare up. This will help you to identify if there are any certain foods you should avoid.
- Try to find ways to relax and reduce stress.
- Get plenty of exercise.
- Try to eat fresh, home-cooked meals as much as possible.
- Try probiotics for a month and see if they help.
We would recommend you try The Happy Gut Capsule - every capsule contains a complex blend of billions of live bacteria and yeasts that are helpful for your digestive system. They are the ‘good’ bacteria thought to help restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut, which could have incredible benefits.
The information contained in this article is intended solely to provide general guidance on matters of interest for the personal use of the reader, who accepts full responsibility for its use. The application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts involved.