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5 Signs of a Healthy Gut

Jan 1, 1970 | Blog, Gut Health

How’s your gut health?

A simple “gut check” is one of the most comprehensive ways to assess your overall well-being. Growing research points to the importance of the gut microbiome in a wide range of functions from your immune system, to your weight, to your mental health and more. The term gut microbiome refers to the trillions of microorganisms – bacteria, fungi, and other living things that exist in your gut. 

It’s a complex world, with hundreds of different kinds of bacteria. Those microorganisms are the foundation of the gut-brain axis, the two-way communication network between your brain and your gut. Maintaining the gut microbiome requires a delicate balance of bacteria. The “good” bacteria helps digest food and absorb nutrients. They also help produce vitamins and hormones and protect against “bad” bacteria.

 

A myriad of factors can impact this balance. 

High-fiber foods are beneficial to the gut. Bacteria in the gut break down fiber and digest it. This process stimulates the production of more bacteria which becomes fuel for the good guys. A diet that contains variety and nutrients is important for a healthy and diverse microbiome which typically isn’t possible when eating lots of processed food. In addition, stress, alcohol, and many prescription medications may alter the composition of the gut microbiome. Think of it this way: healthy food fuels good bacteria and unhealthy food fuel bad bacteria.  

 

Is Your Gut Healthy? 5 Ways To Tell

Scientists are just now beginning to learn about the complexity of the gut microbiome. Despite the many mysteries we have yet to figure out, it’s actually quite easy to perform a gut check. Here are some things to look for: 

 

Transit Time 

Healthy digestion is the key to maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. One indication of that is transit time. Transit time is how long it takes food to pass through your digestive system. Why does this matter? Slower digestion can lead to the formation of harmful bacteria. On the other hand, when food passes through your body too quickly, you may not absorb essential nutrients. Although everyone is slightly different, optimal transit time is from 12 to 24 hours, which, for most of us, means 1 to 2 bowel movements a day. Tip → If you have no idea how long it takes to digest food, try eating about a half cup of raw beets, then keep an eye on the color of your stool. 

 

How to improve transit time:

  • Foods high in fiber keep things moving in the intestinal tract. Focus on eating unprocessed fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains (if you tolerate them).
  • Many people find that dairy and overly processed foods slow down digestion. If that’s the case for you, you may want to consider limiting your intake of these foods. 
  • Movement leads to increased blood flow and stimulates peristalsis. Peristalsis are the wavelike contractions that move food through the intestines. Many yoga poses can help with digestion, particularly twisting moves.
  • Some supplements can speed up digestion. These include magnesium citrate and supplements with psyllium. It’s important to work with a healthcare practitioner to determine the correct usage and dosage as it’s possible to become dependent on supplements and laxatives, which can ultimately harm your digestive system. 

 

Perfect Poop

It’s nobody’s favorite subject but the condition of your bowel movements actually gives a good indication of your overall intestinal health. The Bristol Stool Scale provides an easy visual reference. Some key things to look out for include:

  • Texture: Healthy bowels should be smooth. Hard, lumpy bowels often indicate constipation. 
  • Shape: Healthy bowels have a sausage shape. Overly liquid bowels are typically a sign of diarrhea, and pellet shapes are a sign of constipation.
  • Buoyancy: Healthy bowels typically sink in the toilet. Bowels that float may contain undigested fat. 

Any blood, straining or pain you experience during bowel movements should be investigated. Get to know your own body and stay alert to any changes.

 

Gas after meals is not disruptive or painful 

Experiencing some gas after a meal is inevitable. For example, beans and raw veggies have the potential to trigger gas in some people. Tip → Soaking or pressure cooking your beans and consuming more cooked vegetables can help you better digest these types of food. Excess gas, however, can indicate something is amiss in your gut. While everyone has a different baseline, pay attention if you notice changes in your level of gassiness, or if gas causes distress or pain. 

 

Easing gassiness

 The following tips can reduce gassiness:

  • Chew food slowly and thoroughly. The more you break down food in the mouth, the easier it is to further digest that food. 
  • Keep a food diary to identify triggers. Common culprits may include certain raw vegetables, legumes and dairy products.
  • Try a short walk after a large meal. Movement helps stimulate peristalsis.
  • Limit the consumption of carbonated drinks. 
  • Try probiotic supplements. It’s best to work with a healthcare practitioner when introducing a probiotic into your routine since excess probiotics can sometimes cause gas.

 

Good energy levels

Do you feel rested when you wake up? The answer to this is a good indicator of your gut health. You receive energy as you digest our food. Your gut health is essential to your energy levels and how ready you are to face the day. If you can’t break down food properly, you won’t receive vital essential nutrients. 

The role of your gut in fighting fatigue goes deeper than that. Bacteria in the microbiome produce B vitamins, which are essential for energy. They also regulate the immune system, which is imperative for good energy. The gut-brain axis also influences your sleep. It’s a two-way communication channel: your sleep influences the balance of bacteria in the gut, but bacteria also influences your circadian rhythms (a.k.a your sleep and wake cycle). 

Low energy can also be a sign of leaky gut syndrome, which happens when the lining of the gut becomes too permeable, allowing unhealthy gut bacteria and inflammatory substances to leak into the bloodstream. People with leaky gut syndrome are at high risk for issues like Crohn’s and Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome, conditions that lead to fatigue. 

 

Your memory, mood, and focus 

Growing research points to the impact of gut bacteria on our mood. Up to 90% of your body’s serotonin is produced in the gut, so it’s not surprising that altering the balance within the gut microbiome has notable effects on mood. Once again, this is a two-way street. Stress can alter gut composition, which in turn can make you more stressed. This is because the gut’s production of hormones that impact your mood shifts. 

Recognizing and addressing these sorts of gut issues early on is important. That’s where testing comes into play. Here at Best Life Functional Medicine, we don’t guess, we test. The neuro-chemicals in your gut also impact your ability to learn new information and retain it. If you notice a change in your cognitive abilities, it’s a good idea to evaluate the other signs of a healthy gut to see if there is a connection.

 

Final Takeaway

After reviewing the information above, how did your gut check turn out? If any of the items on this gut checklist raise concerns for you, you may benefit from our Best Life Root Cause Resolution program. This is a comprehensive 1-on-1 program that first tests your adrenal health and cortisol levels and then moves onto to test your gut health. 

Testing and healing the adrenals first is key since we want to strengthen the body’s response to stress so it can handle the gut bug killing that we’ll be doing during the gut portion of the program. 

Lastly, we have a new Gut Restoration program underway that specifically focuses on optimizing gut health. More information to come on that so stay tuned for updates from us. 

 

Sources

Madison, Annelise, and Janice K Kiecolt-Glaser. “Stress, depression, diet, and the gut microbiota: human-bacteria interactions at the core of psychoneuroimmunology and nutrition.” Current opinion in behavioral sciences vol. 28 (2019): 105-110. doi:10.1016/j.cobeha.2019.01.011 

John F. Cryan, Kenneth J. O’Riordan, Caitlin S. M. Cowan, Kiran V. Sandhu, The Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis, Physiological Reviews, 28 AUG 2019, https://doi.org/10.1152/physrev.00018.2018

Science Daily, “Food’s transit through the body is a key factor in digestive health,” June 27, 2016

Li Y, Hao Y, Fan F, Zhang B. The Role of Microbiome in Insomnia, Circadian Disturbance and Depression. Front Psychiatry. 2018;9:669. Published 2018 Dec 5. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00669

Rao SSC, Rehman A, Yu S, Andino NM. Brain fogginess, gas and bloating: a link between SIBO, probiotics and metabolic acidosis. Clin Transl Gastroenterol. 2018;9(6):162. Published 2018 Jun 19. doi:10.1038/s41424-018-0030-7

Holzer P, Farzi A. Neuropeptides and the microbiota-gut-brain axis. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2014;817:195-219. doi:10.1007/978-1-4939-0897-4_9

 

 

 

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