A healthy gut means a healthy you. “The gut microbiome is one of the most important aspects of our overall health,” says dr Will Cole. “Medical research has confirmed the powerful role our gut plays in seemingly unrelated health problems like autoimmune diseases, anxiety, heart disease, diabetes, and even skin problems like acne and eczema. An unhealthy gut often begins before any obvious symptoms appear. A combination of genetics and lifestyle factors like poor diet, chronic stress, and medications are all triggers that build up over time, perpetuating a cycle of chronic inflammation and further weakening the microbiome.” Here are five ways to repair your unhealthy gut, according to experts Read on – and don’t miss these to protect your health and the health of others Sure signs you already had COVID.
A 10-week study from Stanford University showed that fermented foods (like kimchi and yogurt) are not only good for the microbiome, but can also help support a healthy, robust immune response. “This is an amazing finding,” says Justin Sonnenburg, Ph.D, associate professor of microbiology and immunology. “It is one of the first examples of how a simple dietary change can reproducibly remodel the microbiota in a cohort of healthy adults.”
Getting good sleep (and the right amount) is strongly linked to a healthy gut, experts say. “Given the strong bidirectional gut-brain communication, they likely influence each other,” says Jaime Tartar, Ph.D. “Based on previous reports, we believe poor sleep is likely to have a strong negative effect on gut health/microbiome diversity.”
Several studies show that exercise has a positive impact on gut health. “If we say this sentence [‘exercise as medicine’], we understand that exercise helps people stay healthier and live longer. But you don’t think about your gut bacteria.” says Ryan Durk, a graduate student at San Francisco State University. “We now know that exercise is critical to growing beneficial bacteria in the gut.”
Studies show that chronic stress can change the diversity of gut bacteria and lead to higher numbers of harmful bacteria. “These bacteria affect immune function and may explain why stress dysregulates the immune response,” says Michael Bailey, Ph.D. “These changes can have profound effects on physiological function. When we reduced the number of bacteria in the gut using antibiotics, we found that some of the effects of stress on the immune system were prevented. This suggests that stress not only changes the bacteria in the gut, but that these changes in turn can compromise our immunity.”
“It’s very hard to know exactly what’s causing a problem in junk food.” says epidemiologist Professor Tim Spector. “It’s not the fat, carbs and protein, it’s the added chemicals. The data is probably best for artificial sweeteners derived from things like paraffin and the gasoline industry, so our bodies and microbes aren’t used to breaking them down. But it could be other things like the enzymes you don’t get on the label or emulsifiers. There are few studies on emulsifiers and almost all on animals, but they show that you get less variety and more inflammatory microbes. The idea is that they do the same thing as cooking: your microbes stick together, forming an emulsion. Or it could be the lack of fiber and the fact that everything is refined. We haven’t nailed it, but I think it’s safe to say that ultra-processed foods are bad for your gut microbes and we should avoid eating them on a regular basis.”
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for bringing science and research-backed information to a wide audience. Continue reading
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