Healthy Gut, Healthy Living
We often talk about eating right with arthritis. How small tweaks to your diet can make a big difference. The same is true for many forms of joint pain. Be sure to learn more about what an anti-inflammatory diet actually is.
You’ll often hear that you’re only as healthy as your gut, but what does that actually mean? Your gut is your digestive tract, which goes from your mouth to your rectum. Gut health refers to the overall state of this area of your body and can have huge implications for your overall health.
So how do you know if your gut is healthy? Symptoms of an unhealthy gut include bloating, upset stomach, tiredness, skin problems and skin sensitivity. Sometimes our stomachs can be upset by something we ate, but if you frequently deal with these issues there is a chance there’s something else at play.
Everyone can benefit from a good, balanced diet and a happy gut. How can you make your gut healthier? We spoke to some experts to find out.
Why is it important to 'eat right' and what does that mean?
“To 'eat right' is to give your body the optimum fuel it requires. This means finding an ideal balance in our food choices to provide ourselves the full range of micro and macro nutrients that will maximise our mental and physical health and wellbeing. Ultimately the food we eat affects our mood, energy levels, vital systems, and our bodies’ ability to function. This includes things like how our body responds to inflammation and pain. When we choose foods that nourish and boost our vitality, we feel healthier and happier,” says Lydia Oyeniran, Health & Wellbeing Champion at Veo.world.
You might have heard that you are what you eat, but that really depends on the kinds of foods you like and whether you have any intolerances. Some people swear by a vegan diet, whilst others find that a little meat helps them feel energised. Rather than following a specific diet, try to see how the foods you eat make you feel. If you feel sluggish, bloated, sick after a meal and you experience stomach pain and stomach problems later on, you may want to reduce your intake or look at whether you’re eating too many processed foods. Vegetables, whole grains, fibre, lean proteins and following a balanced diet can go a long way.
How can what we eat play a role in our gut health and overall health?
“When we eat overly sugary foods, alcohols or highly oxidative compounds in processed foods, we can disrupt the functions in the walls of the gastrointestinal tract and immune cells that operate there. 70% of the immune system is housed in the gut which means foods that stimulate inflammatory responses can lead to many global health conditions including weight gain. Immune cells regulate tissue behaviour all over the body and are linked to changes in insulin sensitivity and fat accumulation in cells,” says Christian Thomson, Health Consultant from Christian Thomson Health Consultancy.
“Gut health is a major contributor to our overall health, not just for helping with digestion but because it aids the production of serotonin, known as 'the happiness hormone'. So it's important to ensure that what we eat supports our gut microbiome, to increase serotonin production which promotes our health, happiness, wellbeing, and regulates our moods as well as our sleep, appetite, digestion, and more,” adds Lydia.
Why is maintaining a healthy gut key to a healthy life?
“Our gut is our first line of defense against environmental pathogens, viruses and bacteria. Keep it healthy and you will notice the benefits. It is vital to our immune system and modulates the immune response to infections. It's also linked to the brain via the Vagus Nerve - hence what's called the gut-brain connection. A healthy gut affects your mood. The two are intimately linked and what happens in one is reflected in changes in the other. A healthy gut helps you feel happy and energised. It stimulates the brain's feel-good chemicals,” says Frederic Rostand, Science Director, IG Bioscience Ltd
“The gut is an external surface that just happens to run through the middle of us, it is a barrier to the outside world and is involved in the breaking down and absorption of food we need to survive. It’s also one of the key methods of waste removal; dysregulation in the release of waste or the speed it moves through the intestines may result in increased toxic load among many other health issues. Altogether the digestion, assimilation and detoxification roles played by the gut have a great level of control over how our metabolism responds to food and exercise which dictates our health,” adds Christian.
How can the right diet help you sustain a healthy and active life?
“Eating the right foods at the right time can change digestive secretions such as stomach acid, which play vital roles in the breaking down of food and signalling the release of important peptide hormones that control gut motility. If you are suffering from a functional issue within the digestion, assimilation and detoxification process then any of these can result in reduced performance, energy issues and poor health. Finding the right diet comes down to one phrase: “Test Don’t Guess.” If you don’t know what is going on under the hood it can be very difficult to choose correctly, which is precisely why fad diets have such unreliable results across the population; for some it may solve a specific problem, while for others it may not help at all or may even make it worse,” says Frederic.
If you think you may have an intolerance to gluten, lactose or another type of food, speak to your doctor for advice. If you are experiencing regular problems with your gut, you may want to stop eating certain types of food for a limited period of time to see if your symptoms improve. It’s pretty easy to be gluten free and/or lactose free these days, so it’s definitely not the end of the world if you find out you’re allergic to something - and your quality of life will really improve as your gut health gets better. The same is true if you find that after certain foods your joint pain becomes worse. People respond to different types of food in different ways and it might be that certain foods in your diet are causing increased inflammation and therefore joint pain. Try cutting certain things out and slowly reintroducing them to see what foods impact your day to day life.
How do you maintain a healthy gut? Let us know on social!