Have you ever noticed how feeling nervous or anticipating a stressful event gives you that fluttery feeling of butterflies in your stomach? There’s a reason for that “gut feeling.” The gut and brain are connected by a long neural tube called the Vagus nerve.
What’s taking place in your intestines affects not only your brain’s regular functions but also influence your risk for a number of neurological conditions in the future.
The organisms or microbiome of your intestine, participate in a wide variety of bodily functions, including immunity, detoxification, inflammation, neurotransmission and vitamin production, nutrient absorption, whether you feel hungry or full. The neurons are embedded in the intestinal walls, and 95 percent of serotonin, our feel-good neurotransmitter, is produced in the gut. This is one reason inflammatory intestinal conditions are also linked to depression and anxiety.
Poor gut health can lead to poor appetite, digestive issues (frequent loose stools, constipation, acidity, bloating), weight loss, skin conditions (like allergies, skin rashes), stress, depression and anxiety, vitamin & mineral deficiencies, autoimmune diseases, etc.
Simple Ways to keep your gut healthy:
Eat Smaller Portions: If you regularly eat large meals, your stomach’s distensibility – ability to stretch will increase to accommodate the food. If you instead eat only small portions at a time, your stomach’s distensibility will decrease and will keep your gut healthy.
Increase Fibre: Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, it promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, including Bifidobacteria.
Probiotics: Probiotic foods like curd or yogurt, can benefit the microbiota by enhancing its function and reducing the abundance of disease-causing bacteria in the intestines thereby keeping the gut healthy.
Fermented Foods: The process of fermentation usually involves bacteria or yeasts which convert the sugars in food to organic acids or alcohol. Such foods are beneficial for health. Fermented foods include idli, tempeh, kefir, etc.
Cut down on animal fats: When animal protein not digested properly, pathogenic bacteria use them to produce toxins that further damage the gut lining. So it is better to rely more on plant-based proteins and fats like refined oils, nuts, and seeds.
Avoid toxins: Stay away from food toxins like pesticides, excessive use of antibiotics, emulsifiers and artificial sweeteners as they destroy the healthy bacteria and gut lining.
Reduce stress: The biochemical changes that occur in times of stress have a significant and immediate impact on gut function. Chronic exposure to stress may lead to the development of a variety of gastrointestinal diseases such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcer disease, Irritable bowel syndrome(IBS), and even food allergies.
Detoxification: A gut cleanse is an effective way to improve your overall health and boost your ability to digest food and detoxify harmful substances. It includes three steps- Eliminating, Flushing, and Replenishing. Drink plenty of water and include more fiber-rich food (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and cereals).
Superfoods for gut health:
- Basil(Tulsi): Basil helps in reducing gas and stomach cramps. Being a rich source of Vitamin A, C, E, K, it aids in intestinal calcium, iron, and magnesium and has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Ginger: It is a rich source of Vitamin C, B complex, Copper, Potassium, Calcium, Ginger helps to promote circulation, reduce nausea, stimulates saliva, and ease motion sickness. Also good for reducing bloating and gas.
- Yogurt: Yogurt has lots of probiotics cultures that help in keeping the digestive tract healthy. Yogurt may also help in increasing bacteria in your gut.
- Kefir: Kefir is a fermented drink that has probiotics. It is a non-dairy product (can be made with coconut milk, rice milk, coconut water) that can be consumed by lactose-intolerant people.
- Kiwi: Kiwi is rich in fiber that helps in easy digestion. It has a proteolytic enzyme: Actinidin, that is beneficial for protein digestion.
- Chia and Flaxseed: The richest source of soluble and insoluble fiber, helps add bulk to the stools and act as a good laxative. Both are great prebiotic and nourishes our gut bacteria.