Published on December 27, 2022

Understanding Gut Health

chalk gut illustration surrounded by gut healthy foods

What is gut microbiome?

Gut microbiome are microorganisms living in our intestines. Each of us has about 200 different species of bacteria, viruses and fungi in our digestive tract. Some are harmful to our health, but many are incredibly beneficial and even necessary for a healthy body.

Research indicates that having a large variety of bacteria in the gut may help reduce the risk of conditions like diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and psoriatic arthritis.

How does the gut microbiome affect your health?

Studies over the past few decades have found links between gut health and:

  • The immune system
  • Mental health
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cancer

Symptoms if you have reduced gut health:

  • Upset stomach
  • Unintentional weight changes
  • Sleep disturbances or constant fatigue
  • Skin irritation
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Food intolerances

How to improve gut health

  • Lower stress levels – chronic stress is associated with reduced diversity in the microbiome
  • Get quality sleep – sleep disorders can disrupt the functioning of the microbiome
  • Drink water – a 2022 study found that people who drank more water had less of a type of bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal infections
  • Exercise – research shows that exercise improves the growth of beneficial species and boosts your immune system (70% of the immune system resides in our gut)
  • Eat a healthy diet – fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins
  • Avoid these foods – artificial sweeteners, red meat and highly processed foods (fast food)

How does the gut microbiome respond to intermittent fasting?

  • According to a small 2019 study of 16 people, fasting was linked to lower levels of bacteria that promotes colorectal cancer
  • Another 2019 study in mice indicated that fasting promoted the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and reduced inflammation in the intestines

Consult a physician or registered dietitian for more information on improving gut health.

By Kim Goblirsch, Well-being Specialist, LiveNOW Well-Being Team

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