When it comes to overall health and wellbeing, your intestinal health is vitally important.
The state of your intestinal tract, or gut, can have a big impact on many key body systems and functions.If all is healthy and well, it will help the rest of your body function as it should.
However, gut problems can trigger a whole host of health issues that can create severe issues if not addressed.
Your intestinal health refers to the overall health of your digestive tract.
It is a complex system that is linked to many key organs and body systems.
When food is consumed, it travels along the intestinal system where it is processed, the nutrients are stripped out and digested, and any waste products and toxins are passed.
Your gut is home to millions of friendly, healthy bacteria which do the job of absorbing the nutrients your body needs and discarding the rest.
So, achieving the right balance in your gut is the key to good overall intestinal health.
SIGNS OF AN UNHEALTHY GUTMany gut problems can be linked to an unhealthy lifestyle. Too much stress, an unhealthy diet, lack of rest and relaxation and indulging in too many guilty pleasures – such as takeaways, alcohol and caffeine – can all take their toll on your tummy.
Prescription antibiotics, meanwhile, can also alter the delicate balance of friendly bacteria in the gut, which can impact your body’s other key functions, including your brain, heart and immune systems, as well as your skin.
If you’re worried your intestinal health might not be where it should be, there are a few signs to look out for.
When all is working well and your gut is balanced, you should have no problems processing food and eliminating waste. However, if you regularly suffer symptoms of an upset stomach, such as bloating, wind, constipation, diarrhoea or heartburn, these might be signs that something is not quite right.
If you eat lots of processed foods or unrefined sugars, this can also decrease the number of friendly bacteria in your gut. This can not only increase sugar cravings but can also create inflammation along the intestinal tract.
This can cause pain and discomfort and lead to more serious health implications.
Unexpected changes to your weight – whether that be rapid weight gain or loss – is also something to look out for, particularly if you haven’t changed your eating or exercise habits.
An unhealthy gut can also cause sleep issues and lead to fatigue. Your gut produces most of your body’s serotonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. If your gut is unbalanced, this can impact its production and make it difficult for you to relax and dose off properly.
Perhaps the most significant indicator of intestinal health is your immune system. Around 70% of it is housed in the gut and has a big impact on your overall health and wellbeing. If you are prone to infection, inflammation and common illnesses like coughs, colds and tummy bugs, it could indicate that your immune system isn’t functioning as it should.
Over time, this can develop into more serious and severe health conditions, as your body’s ability to fight off illness and disease will be impaired.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR INTESTINAL HEALTHAs we’ve said above, good intestinal health is vital for lots of reasons. It will help keep your body happy, healthy and functioning as it should. It can also help protect you against the onset of more serious long-term health problems.
So, keeping your gut in tip-top condition is vital, and there are a few things you can do to help.
Keeping stress in check is essential. High levels of stress affect your whole body, not just your gut, and can manifest in several ways.
Trying to stay calm and relaxed, even when you’re under pressure, is key. Exercising, spending time outdoors, taking some ‘me time’ or doing something you enjoy can all help reduce stress.
So can yoga, meditation and mindfulness. Combining these with aromatherapy, using your favourite essential oils, can enhance the calming effects and help you switch off.
Getting more sleep is also essential. When you sleep, your body shuts down, resets and repairs itself, so getting quality sleep is vital for boosting your overall health.
Keeping your diet in check will also help. Swapping foods that are high in saturated fats and processed sugars for lean proteins and fresh fruit and veg will help you achieve a better gut balance.
Getting more wholefoods and probiotics into your diet, either from natural supplements or foods like yoghurt, kimchi or sauerkraut is also a good way of maintaining optimum gut microbiome. It can also reduce tummy problems.
Staying hydrated is important. Drinking lots of water helps to flush out any toxins from the intestinal tract and maintain the right balance of healthy bacteria in the gut. It can also support a wide range of other essential functions in your body, including your skin, heart and circulation.
And finally, if you regularly suffer from stomach issues including cramps, bloating, nausea or abdominal pain, it’s worth getting checked out for food intolerances.
Certain types of food, such as dairy or gluten, can damage the delicate balance of bacteria in your gut and trigger an allergic reaction.
If you can identify and cut these out, it should help ease your symptoms, improve your gut health and have a knock-on effect on your immune system and other key body functions.
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