Get two active adults together, and sooner or later, the conversation will involve some facet of the digestive process.
The digestion and absorption of our dietary intake is controlled by a sensitive ecosystem of trillions of microorganisms in our stomachs. Or you can just call them our guts. The importance of gut health cannot be overstated. Acting as the command center for the body, this complex mix of bacteria actively influences our well-being.
A healthy mix of bacteria keeps harmful inflammation at bay and bolsters our immune system. But as we age, our gut microbiome has a tendency to change, creating an imbalance that can cause annoying changes in bowel habits and is also linked to a wide variety of chronic and autoimmune disorders.
Are You Pro Probiotics?
Probiotic supplements contain healthy bacteria believed to support digestive health. If you’re considering taking these supplements, consult a health professional who can assist you in deciding whether or not this is the right course of action. If so, they can help you wade through the tons of choices out there.
How Do We Improve Gut Health Naturally?
Maybe your, um…gut tells you that you’re not comfortable taking supplements. Here are some easy guidelines for how to improve gut health naturally.
Fermented foods are a natural source of probiotics – or good bacteria – and can support a healthy gut population. Examples of fermented foods include:
Prebiotics – not to be confused with probiotics – are found in certain foods. Eating them initiates a digestive process that encourages beneficial gut bacteria to multiply.
A few prebiotic-rich foods are:
Just Say No to Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners
Steering clear of sugar and artificial sweeteners is one of the best actions you can take to prevent digestive issues. Both are believed to cause a condition called gut dysbiosis, which is a critical imbalance of gut microorganisms. Studies suggest that the overabundance of sugar and fat in our diet adversely affects gut bacteria, which can negatively impact brain function. Based on research, the artificial sweetener aspartame is believed to increase harmful bacteria that are associated with metabolic disease.
Stress can negatively impact our health on many levels, including what’s happening in our gut. Research suggests that psychological or environmental stress can disrupt the makeup of our intestinal tract. The same goes for sleep deprivation. Relaxation exercises like meditation and yoga will result in less stress and better sleep.
Antibiotics Are the Good News and the Bad News
While antibiotics save lives and are often necessary to cure bacterial infections, overuse can lead to harmful changes in the gut and immune system. To promote gut health, avoid taking antibiotics unless necessary.
Keep It Moving
Exercise is a critical piece of a healthy, active adult lifestyle for several reasons, including heart health, strength, agility, and weight control. But studies indicate it may also be a factor in maintaining diverse and well-balanced gut flora.
It’s no surprise that smoking is hazardous to our health. But did you know that it’s also been shown to alter our gut bacteria by decreasing our levels of beneficial strains and causing an increase in the growth of harmful varieties? If you needed yet another reason not to smoke, here it is.
There is evidence that a vegetarian diet may improve gut health. Studies suggest the high levels of prebiotic fiber in the vegetarian choices promote the growth of healthy bacteria, decreasing harmful gut inflammation. A strictly vegetarian regime may not appeal to your taste buds, but altering your diet even slightly to include more vegetarian choices can have a positive impact. Watch one of Overture’s creative cooking class videos and discover new and delicious ways to maintain good health.
The equation is simple: A healthy, diverse gut population equals enhanced overall health and immune function. Talk to your doctor to create a plan that will keep you – and your microorganism population – flourishing.