Restore Good Gut Health for Better Overall Health

The holidays are approaching, and while for many people that means festivities, food, friends, family and fun, some might be left feeling fatigue, upset stomach, excess cravings, and mood swings. And while it’s easy to chalk those symptoms up to the hectic pace of the holiday season, you might take a deeper look into their root cause and focus on an unexpected source: your gut health.

The “gut” refers to your body’s gastrointestinal tract, which does the job of chewing, swallowing, digesting and excreting the food that you consume. But your gut controls far more than just those functions – it can have widespread effects throughout your entire body.

Signs of Poor Gut Health

As with most other bodily systems, when your gastrointestinal tract is happy and doing its job you probably don’t even notice it. It’s only when your gut is performing poorly that you realize you might have an issue. So what signs might point to diminished gut health?

  • Upset stomach: symptoms can include gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or heartburn
  • Weight changes: unintended weight gain or weight loss
  • Poor sleep habits: difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, frequent feelings of fatigue during waking hours
  • Skin conditions: can range from simple sensitivity to psoriasis, acne, dandruff, and more
  • Autoimmune disease: many scientists believe that there’s a connection between gut health and certain autoimmune conditions like celiac disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Food sensitivity: conditions like lactose or gluten intolerance
  • Mental health issues: there is a well-documented link between the gut and the brain, which can lead to conditions like anxiety and depression

If you experience acute digestive symptoms like extended vomiting or diarrhea, see one of the emergency medicine specialists at your nearby BetterMed location for immediate assistance.

Restoring Your Gut Health

  1. See a doctor. While the symptoms listed above can all point to a gut disturbance, they can also be associated with many other conditions, so the first step toward addressing your gut health should be seeing a medical professional. A doctor can help you pinpoint the source of your symptoms and form a plan to alleviate them.
  2. Reduce your stress levels. Living in a chronic state of stress is not only hard on your mental health, it can have a profound effect on your gut health. See our advice for managing your stress levels
  3. Get enough sleep. Just like your brain and body, your gut needs downtime to rest and recover. So what’s “enough” sleep? For most people, it’s 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
  4. Drink water. You know you need to stay well hydrated for general good health, but drinking during and after meals is especially important for gut health. Water helps break down food so that your body can better absorb nutrients, and also helps to prevent constipation.
  5. Slow your eating. Well-chewed food means less work for your digestive system, and can actually also lower your chances of obesity and/or diabetes.
  6. Clean up your diet. The list of health reasons to eat well is almost endless, but promoting good digestive health should be right at the top of the list. Here are some tips to clean up your diet.
  7. Identify intolerances. If the underlying cause of your gut imbalance is a food intolerance, identifying the trigger can make a world of difference. So if you notice a clear connection between consuming a certain food and experiencing digestive repercussions, try eliminating that item from your diet. Your doctor can also perform tests for more obscure intolerances that you might not have noticed.
  8. Support with supplements. For many people, taking good quality pre- and/or probiotics is an easy way to support gut health. Talk to your doctor about what’s right for you.

The human digestive system is complex, and more connections between gut health and whole body health are being proven every day. Make caring for your gut a priority, and you’ll see a whole host of positive health benefits.