We know and have been hearing for so long now that your health is in your gut - but what does that even mean and how does your gut health change as you get older? I'm going to help to break this down and share my tips to treating your mind, body and gut with the love and attention it deserves. Let’s start with the basics. What exactly are people referring to when they are talking about “the gut”?
Our intestines are full of billions of types of bacteria, both good and bad. Our bacterial makeup depends on a lot of things different things - our diet, genetics, environment and whether we’ve taken antibiotics recently. The good news? We have the power to change our microbiome in a matter of days. Research showed an increase in good bacteria in the gut after just 2 days of switching subjects from a high fat, high sugar diet, to a plant based diet.
When we have more of the good bacteria in the gut, there is less room for the bad guys. When our microbiome is well armed with good bacteria, it enhances our mood, immune system, energy, sex drive and keeps us in better touch with hunger and satiety cues.
When the bad guys start to take over due to stress or poor diet, our microbiome is unable to function optimally. We may experience uneasy digestion, delayed gastric emptying causing those unsexy symptoms like bloating and constipation, and fatigue. We are also more susceptible to getting sick.
Many of us start to experience food intolerances or increased digestive discomfort as we age. As women, it is important to work with a physician, nutritionist or functional medicine doctor to understand the woman’s unique biology and your specific hormonal balance, intolerances or allergies. These can have a huge impact on how you feel day to day. Experimenting with elimination diets can help figure out trigger foods and practicing mindfulness through meditation and breath work can help decrease stress related digestive discomfort like bloat and constipation.
What you eat has a huge impact on the health of our microbiome and how our bodies fight inflammation. Processed foods high in sugar, artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers and stabilizers can cause leaky gut, digestive discomfort and chronic low grade inflammation, making us more susceptible to acute and chronic illnesses. Understanding nutrition labels and sticking to natural, whole foods can improve the health of your gut and digestion quickly. Cutting out processed foods will also help with weight management, energy and mood!
While you can shift the makeup of your microbiome within days, maintaining gut health is important, especially as we age. There is even a correlation between gut health and brain/memory health. Preventing chronic illness, skin cell degeneration (what causes wrinkles!), and maintaining high energy levels as we age ALL starts with gut health.
Where to start?
- Eat a plant heavy diet
- Limit processed, high sugar foods
- Learn how to read nutrition labels to avoid artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers and additives
- Add meditation or mindfulness practices to your daily routine
- Eat and take your probiotics
- Find a general physician or functional medicine doctor that can help you understand your unique biology
Start by putting these practices into place for a week, then two weeks, then another two weeks and see how different (amazing!) you feel. Slow and steady wins the race and remember to be kind to yourself along the way as you put these new habits into your daily routines.