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It’s now commonplace to see references to ‘gut health’ in articles about diet and lifestyle. The term is something of a buzzword for healthy eating and general wellbeing, but why is this the case, and what is the actual definition of gut health and why is it so important? Here’s a closer look at the matter, that hopefully makes gut health easy to digest! 

Gut health refers to the proper functioning of the gastrointestinal tract. This includes the stomach and the small and large intestine. It is so central to our well being because it breaks down nutrients that are absorbed by the body, and in turn supports vital functions and maintains everyday good health.

Our gut microbiome is key to its proper functioning. The gut contains trillions of microorganisms that contain and balance of ‘good’ bacteria and potentially pathogenic microbes. It is essential to maintain this balance to support the immune system, the cardiovascular system, the skin, and cognitive functions. 

Furthermore, scientists have recently discovered the ‘gut brain axis’, which has established a clear link between the production of the hormone serotonin and the activity of gut bacteria. Serotonin also acts as a neurotransmitter, carrying messages between the brain and the body. It helps to regulate mood, and low levels of serotonin are associated with depression.

An imbalance of gut microbiota is associated with poor physical health and also worse mental health. This is why there is so much emphasis on good gut health, but how do you actually achieve it? The basics are not all that complicated: it’s a matter of eating a well balanced diet, with elements of fibre, protein, unsaturated fats, and carbohydrates.

However, other factors can affect our gut health, such as stress, illness, medications (particularly antibiotics), excessive alcohol consumption, and lack of exercise. You may notice physical symptoms of an unbalanced gut, such as diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, and discomfort or pain in your tummy.  

You may also experience inconsistent energy levels, dry rough skin, and frequent brain fog or low moods. If you suspect that your gut health needs a boost, the good news is that there is plenty that you can do. 

Firstly, detox your system by swapping sugary or caffeinated drinks for water or herbal tea. This can help to flush out the harmful bacteria in your gut and restore the balance. Foods that are rich in prebiotics can help to top up the useful bacteria in your gut. Try live natural yoghurt, beans, lentils, and whole grains.

Supplements can also enhance the levels of friendly bacteria in your gut. Everyone is individual of course, and we respond to foods in different ways so it may take some time to find out exactly what works best for you. 

Organic mushroom powder is a popular gut health supplement, because it is packed with a range of essential vitamins and nutrients, particularly B vitamins and vitamin D. It can be easily stirred in soups, stews, or salads.


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