You may have heard the buzz around gut health lately. It seems like gut health is the new “in vogue” thing when it comes to the health industry and the products marketed to us at the moment. Luckily, this is one trend that I can really get behind, because the importance of gut health is up there as the most important thing we should be focusing on when it comes to our overall health and wellbeing.
As busy mums, we are juggling so many different aspects of running the household, plus possibly managing a job or a business as well. I don’t need to tell you that the physical load, not to mention the mental load, can really get on top of us and start to have an effect on our mental health. It is so important that we nurture our mental health and wellbeing, and taking care of your gut health is an important step in the process.
The health of our gastrointestinal tract (our “gut”) plays a role in the health of every system in our body, including and especially our immune system, and our nervous system. Our gut microbiota (the good and bad bacteria living in our gut) has a delicate balance, with many different species of bacteria living and thriving in the environment. If we don’t take care of this environment, it can throw off the balance of bacteria, causing inflammation, leading to various issues such as digestive upsets, malabsorption of nutrients.
This inflammation that can occur can also upset the production of antigens that help our body fight off invaders such as bacteria and viruses. That is why it is so important to be caring for your gut health when it comes to looking after your immune health. Studies have proven that a gut that is working efficiently to digest and absorb nutrients contributes to the strongest immune system.
The connection between our gut health and our mental health.
When it comes to stress, anxiety and our mental health, there is no doubt that our gut health plays a role. Recent studies have revealed something called the “gut brain axis”. It means that our gastrointestinal tract is linked to our brain through the central nervous system. Our gut has the ability to send and receive signals from our brain and vice versa- the brain can also send and receive messages from our gut. It makes sense then, that the health of one will affect the health of the other. That is why when it comes to taking care of our mental health, we really need to implement a two pronged approach that considers tackling it from both sides.
We can concentrate on reducing our stress and anxiety by implementing techniques to reduce our cortisol levels (our stress hormone.) Techniques such as breath work, meditation and mindfulness as well as my favourite- exercise, are all proven to have almost immediate effects on reducing cortisol levels, and increasing levels of the feel good hormone such as dopamine and serotonin. These help us to feel more calm, and also help us to switch off at night and have restorative sleep. Not only do these things benefit our mental health and wellbeing, they benefit the health of our gut because of that strong connection between the gut and the brain. A reduction in stress and improvement in sleep has been proven to improve the balance of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, and reduce the amount inflammation occurring.
When we’re really stressed, it’s common to see symptoms arrive in the form of digestive disturbances that can lead to malabsorption of nutrients. It’s so important to get on top of this in order for our body to function properly. We can start to feel tired and really depleted, leading to illness.
We can then work on improving our gut health to have a flow on effect to helping reduce the amount of stress and anxiety we feel, and how resilient we are to allowing stress to take a hold of us. Here are some of my top tips to improving your gut health:
The road to better gut health is not a short one. It takes time and consistency to really see long term benefits, so starting with small changes is the best way to start having an impact on your gut health.