It’s pretty widely accepted that gut health is essential for a healthy body. The state of your gut can often impact on other health problems. But what is now being uncovered is that it’s a two-way street. Many of the factors we thought were influenced by gut health can also influence it right back. Let’s look at some of these, and what you can do to best support your overall health.
Gut health and stress
There’s a strong link between the gut and the brain, which impacts on mental health. But stress can also cause serious issues with your digestive tract.
When we’re under stress, our gut flora reacts to that stress. Instead of working together, they split up and fend for themselves. This leave the good guys vulnerable to getting killed off, and allows the bad guys to take over. That is bad news for your gut!
When stressed, we also secrete hormones that can increase permeability in the gut. This leaves us open to ‘leaky gut’, which causes a whole host of other problems for our health.
What to do about it: make sure you have your own stress management program set up. It might include exercise, meditation, yoga, reading, or something else. But do something every day that keeps your stress levels healthy.
Gut health and sleep
It was pretty ground-breaking when we discovered that gut health can impact on sleep quality. But now we’re also learning that sleep can significantly influence the gut.
Poor-quality sleep and insufficient sleep both have negative impacts on gut health. Sleep deprivation can cause big shifts in the levels of gut bacteria, even after just two nights. The changes that happen reflect what is seen in people with obesity and metabolic disorders.
Poor sleep can also increase the permeability of the gut. Bad strains of bacteria can actually grow outside the gut after poor sleep.
Gut health and heavy metals
If our gut is damaged, we’re more vulnerable to heavy metals. But heavy metals can also do a lot of damage to the gut – even if it isn’t absorbed into the body. Gut flora can be disrupted and the gut wall is weakened, increasing permeability.
Some heavy metals, such as mercury, can have even greater impacts. They can inhibit essential enzymes, destroy good bacteria and damage the intestinal lining. All of these can add up to a very unhappy digestive tract – and body.
What to do about it: there are many heavy metals that may be at play – or there may be none. If you have chronic gut issues, consider getting tested for heavy metals.
Gut health and inflammation
We now know that an unhealthy gut can be a source of chronic inflammation. But now it seems that inflammation can also disrupt gut health.
Inflammation can induce dysbiosis, or imbalance in the gut bacteria. This then causes more inflammation, as bad bacteria can produce compounds that inflame the gut and the body.
Local inflammation in the gut can also cause problems. If you consume a food you don’t tolerate, this inflames the gut. The gut lining can become more permeable, and this opens you up to more inflammation and imbalances in the gut flora.
What to do about it: focus your diet on plenty of anti-inflammatory foods. They’re delicious and therapeutic!
Not sure where to start with optimising your gut health?
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