What is a Healthy Gut?
Determining the difference between a healthy gut and an unhealthy gut is the very beginning of the journey to understanding your overall health and how it relates to your gut. The answer is simple — symptoms!
If you have an unhappy gut, you could experience symptoms like reflux, stomach pain, gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. These are all symptoms that are obviously related to digestion issues.
However, gut health isn’t just about poor digestion or crappy bowel movements (pun intended). The digestive tract is likely the leading cause of inflammation in your body. When your gut is inflamed, it can cause inflammation throughout your entire system.
Unhealthy Gut Symptoms Include…
- Fatigue (adrenal fatigue)
- Depression or anxiety
- Brain fog
- Acne or other skin conditions (i.e. psoriasis, eczema)
- Hormonal imbalances
- Hypothyroid symptoms (fatigue, dry skin, constipation, weight gain)
Early Life Factors that Affect Your Gut
Beginning in utero and continuing through the first few years of life, environment appears to have a particularly powerful impact.
Why is this?
Because the world of bacteria typically develops to a large extent by the second to third year of life.
By the age of two or three, colonization of your gut is usually complete, so the first three years of life are the most crucial in building a healthy gut.
Early Life Beneficial Behaviors
These activities during our early-life stages may have a beneficial impact on the microbiota and immune system:
- Breast feeding (instead of formula)
- Vaginal birth (instead of C-section)
- Limiting antibiotic use
- Exposure to dirt, germs, and animals
- Diverse wild plant life growing around your home
FUN FACT: Children who grow up in households that hand wash dishes have fewer allergic diseases than those growing up in households that use a dishwasher.
This is probably because the sponge leaves more bacteria on the dishes giving the children contact with more bacteria, which then helps train their immune system and helps prevent allergic diseases (i.e. auto-immune disease).
Later Life Factors that Affect Your Gut
The environment and lifestyle that you create for the bacteria in your body will dictate what type of bacteria thrive.
If you create a healthy environment through food and lifestyle habits, you’ll harbor healthy bacteria and reap a beautiful harvest of benefits! Factors that negatively affect the gut:
- Processed, packaged foods
- Food allergies & sensitivities
- High carbohydrate, inflammatory diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Hormones & stress
- Lack of sleep
- Antibiotics & other medications
- Sterile environment
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Positive Lifestyle Factors for a Health Gut
Lifestyle factors that contribute to a more diverse variety of bacteria and a stronger immune system include:
- Natural, whole foods
- Avoiding inflammatory foods
- Regular exercise
- Self-care (time in nature, meditation)
- Good sleep hygiene
- Absence of medication
- Stress and anxiety in check