It’s no secret that we’re gut health fanatics at Camille Styles. From glowing skin and proper digestion—to a steady mental state—we’re not shy about our love for this universal subject. And spoiler alert: we’ve hardly scratched the surface. Containing trillions (yes, trillions) of bacteria, our gut flora has tremendous impact from our head to our toes. With that in mind, we’re diving deep. Get ready to unlock the door to a healthier, more invigorated life—one that begins in the very core of your being. Curious to know how to improve gut health? Read on.
Featured image from our interview with Inge Theron by Teal Thomsen.
Why is gut health important?
Picture your gut as the bustling control center of your body: the place where digestion, immunity, and mood regulation take center stage. Its influence runs the gamut. But here’s the thing—gut health isn’t just about feeling comfortable after a meal. It’s a powerhouse that affects your entire well-being.
As mentioned, your gut is home to trillions of microbes. And they’re constantly working in harmony to digest food, extract nutrients, and shield you from harmful invaders. Simultaneously, a balanced gut bolsters immunity and a happier mind. So, whether you’re chasing boundless energy, a robust immune system, or a better demeanor, nurturing your gut health is the not-so-secret secret to unlocking your body’s full potential.
Do you have a healthy gut?
Let’s begin here. Ultimately, a healthy gut microbiome isn’t one-size-fits all. It manifests itself in various subtle—yet significant—ways. Here are signs your gut flora might be in good shape:
Regular digestion. You experience regular, comfortable bowel movements without excessive bloating, gas, or discomfort.
Balanced appetite. You have a well-regulated appetite and don’t experience intense (and frequent) cravings for sugary foods. Instead, you tend to crave nutrient-dense foods rather than highly-processed options.
Minimal food sensitivities. You can tolerate a wide variety of foods without experiencing frequent digestive discomfort or sensitivities.
Stable mood. Your mood is generally positive, and you experience fewer mood swings, anxiety, or feelings of depression.
Strong immunity. You don’t get sick very often and recover fairly quickly when you do fall ill.
Clear skin. Your skin appears healthy, with fewer breakouts, dryness, and irritations.
Optimal weight. You maintain a healthy weight without extreme fluctuations or difficulty managing it.
Steady energy levels. You have consistent energy levels throughout the day, without daily crashes or fatigue.
Restful sleep. Speaking of energy, you get quality sleep, falling asleep relatively easy and waking up refreshed.
Strong nails and hair. Your nails are strong, and your hair is healthy and growing well.
Good oral health. Your gums are pink and healthy, and you have minimal issues with bad breath or dental problems.
Regular exercise tolerance. You can engage in moderate movement without excessive fatigue or delayed recovery.
Balanced stress response. Overall, you manage stress well. Your body doesn’t overreact to minor stressors. In turn, you experience clearer thinking and improved focus throughout the day.
Regular blood sugar levels. Your blood sugar levels remain stable without drastic fluctuations.
Proper hormonal balance. You experience regular and comfortable menstrual cycles (if you currently menstruate). Hormonal imbalances are minimal.
Telltale Signs of an Unhealthy Gut
On the opposite end of the spectrum, what are the telltale signs of a not-so-healthy gut? Oftentimes, a malfunctioning gut sends distinct signals. Think: frequent digestive discomfort (i.e., bloating, gas, and irregular bowel movements). Additionally, unexplained weight fluctuations could be linked to poor gut health. For others, skin problems suggest an underlying gut issue—persistent acne, eczema, or rashes.
Constantly sick? Frequent infections or slow recovery could also point to an imbalanced gut. Furthermore, mood disruptions (chronic stress, anxiety, depression, etc.) might originate from an unhealthy gut-brain connection. Last but not least, intense sugar cravings and unhealthy food preferences could be signs of an out-of-balance gut microbiome.
If you experience these persistent symptoms, chat with your healthcare provider.
What are gut health wreckers?
If your gut microbiome isn’t where you want it to be, don’t fret. Between chatting with your healthcare provider and implementing our tips to improve gut health, you’ll be well on your way. That said, what are factors that can significantly disrupt your digestion?
- Poor diet. A diet high in ultra-processed foods, sugar (especially artificial sweeteners), and trans fats, and low in fiber and fermented foods can negatively impact gut health. These things encourage harmful bacteria to grow, reducing the diversity of beneficial ones.
- Antibiotics. While antibiotics are important for treating infections, overuse or misuse can kill off both harmful and beneficial bacteria in the gut, leading to imbalances.
- Chronic infections. On the flip side, frequent or untreated infections can disturb the balance of the gut microbiome.
- Chronic stress. Prolonged stress can alter the gut-brain communication, leading to inflammation and changes in gut motility and function.
- Lack of sleep. Newborn stage aside, consistent sleep is key. After all, inadequate sleep can disrupt the gut microbiome, contributing to inflammation and other health issues.
- Lack of physical activity: Sedentary lifestyles can negatively impact gut health by reducing microbial diversity and impairing digestion.
- Excessive alcohol. Heavy alcohol consumption can damage the gut lining and alter the balance of gut bacteria. The same goes for smoking.
- Environmental toxins. Exposure to pollutants and environmental toxins can affect gut health. They disrupt the microbiome’s delicate balance.
- Uncontrolled diabetes. Poorly managed diabetes (as well as blood sugar levels) can alter gut health and contribute to gastrointestinal issues.
- Dehydration. Drink up! Dehydration can affect digestion and gut motility, leading to constipation and other issues.
Simple Ways to Improve Your Gut Health
At the end of the day, gut health is about more than just eating fiber and taking a probiotic. Below are 10 important (but often underestimated!) tips to support a healthier gut:
1. Manage Stress
Not to sound like a broken record, but chronic stress can negatively impact your gut health. Aim to practice stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga, and mindfulness every day. These can have a lasting impact on your gut.
2. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Staying well-hydrated is essential for maintaining gut health. Water helps with digestion, absorption, and maintaining the integrity of the gut lining. Don’t love plain H2O? Add citrus, fresh herbs, or berries. Bone broth and tea count, too.
3. Prioritize A Diverse Diet
Specifically, enjoy a wide variety of foods rich in prebiotics (fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) to nourish beneficial gut bacteria. Fermented foods are ideal as well: yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, etc.
4. Limit Artificial Sweeteners
Research shows that artificial sweeteners may negatively impact gut bacteria. Opt for natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup instead. The same goes for preservatives and emulsifiers, like guar gum.
5. Properly Prepare Grains and Legumes
Did you know that soaking and fermenting legumes and grains can reduce anti-nutrients? This, in turn, makes them easier to digest.
6. Chew Thoroughly
Ever scarfed down your meal and left blah after? Same. Keep in mind that proper chewing breaks down food into smaller particles, making it easier for your gut to digest and absorb nutrients. Don’t fret about a specific number of bites, but hone in the flavors in every mouthful and put your fork down often.
7. Consider Intermittent Fasting
While this dietary pattern isn’t for everyone, intermittent fasting (also known as time-restricted eating) can promote gut health. How so? It gives your digestive system a break and supports the balance of gut bacteria.
8. Get Adequate Sleep
Unfortunately, poor sleep impacts more than just your gut microbiome. Prioritize getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night to support gut health. We’ve got plenty of tips and tricks.
9. Play In The Dirt
That’s right. Exposure to some dirt and germs can help develop a stronger immune system and healthier gut. Embrace a balanced approach to cleanliness. Start a garden!
10. Move Your Body
And no, this doesn’t mean daily HIIT. Walking is great. Exercise promotes a diverse gut microbiome and improves gut motility. Aim for regular (mild to moderate) physical activity to keep your gut in top shape.
Remember, your body (and its microbiome) is unique. Experiment with these tips and find what works best for you. And start slow! When it comes to gut health, taking a holistic approach is best. Whether you’re savoring a diverse range of foods, practicing stress-relief techniques, or simply giving your body the rest it deserves, every action counts. Embrace the wisdom of your gut, and let it guide you toward a life brimming with vitality, energy, and radiant health.