The Gut… Easily influenced

When talking about the gut, whether it be nourishing, healing, or protecting, it is always important to think holistically. I often hear people express their frustrations that they eat a very healthy diet but still struggle with digestive symptoms, never actually looking at their stress as a major influencer of the digestive symptoms.

Some main influencers of our gut include:

  • What and how we eat
  • Imbalance of gut microbes
  • Stress and emotions
  • Disease
  • Intolerances, sensitivities and allergies
  • Exercise

Influencers of the gut

Today we will take a sneak peek at these influencers, and then I will post more in-depth on each one soon.

What and how we eat

Of course, we know that what we eat is going to influence our gut, but did you know that specific foods can cause damage to the gut and that certain foods nourish and repair the gut? In addition to this, it also affects not only what we eat but also how we eat it. By using the “Rest and Digest” way of eating, it allows the body to relax and focus on the task at hand, digesting food properly and absorbing more nutrients from the food. Eating on the run or eating while we are stressed causes a host of issues in the digestive system.

Occupants and Integrity

It is a well-known fact these days that we all have both “good” and “bad” bacteria within our digestive tract and that a healthy balance needs to be maintained. The problem is that many people’s gut microbes are out of balance due to illnesses, infections, antibiotic use, and a poor diet. An imbalance of gut microbes can influence a person’s overall immunity, mental health, and persistent digestive disturbances. But this is only one part of the picture. We also have digestive enzymes, essential for optimal breakdown and absorption of nutrients that are oftentimes lacking due to age, poor diets, cooking methods, and genetic factors. The integrity of the gut lining is also essential for absorbing nutrients and optimal digestion, although many people have a damaged gut lining from reactions, sensitivities, antibiotic use, and infections, to name a few.

Stress and Emotional strain

The gut is very sensitive to emotions and stress, as the gut and brain are linked and closely interact. Do you know the feeling of nausea when you are anxious or butterflies when you’re nervous? This is called the gut-brain connection. It is important to know that the brain and gut are in constant communication, sending signals both ways. Therefore, you cannot separate the two; the gut is directly influencing a person’s mood, etc., while a person’s brain is directly influencing the body’s ability to digest properly and may be causing gastrointestinal symptoms.

Disease

While we know that the health of the gut plays a major role in disease, studies (1) have also shown that a diseased state can negatively influence the gut health of a person. Whether it is due to the medication, changes in bowel and eating habits, or just the direct influence of the disease state. So, as you can see, it is the chicken and the egg scenario, where first the poor gut health influenced the health of the person (disease) or the disease that negatively influenced the gut. Either way, if you have other health problems going on, you can guarantee there is some gut work to be done.

Intolerances, allergies and sensitivities

The digestive system is constantly in contact with a wide variety of substances. For some of us, these substances our bodies do not like and can react to not only cause a host of digestive symptoms such as cramping, bloating, diarrhoea but also can cause damage to the gut.

Food intolerances, allergies, and sensitivities are not the same thing, although it can be hard to differentiate between them. In a later post, I will share how to tell the difference and what we can do so that they don’t need to become a constant hindrance.

Exercise

Studies (2) have shown exercise to greatly enhance the number and diversity of beneficial microbial species. Doing regular exercise is greatly beneficial, but it is also worth noting that when doing excess exercise, for example, training for a marathon, this can take its toll on the gut and therefore should be something that we are aware of to support when training.

Understand: It is not just what we eat that affects our gut; it’s affected by how we eat and how we live our lives. Therefore, to heal the gut, our approach has to be holistic, looking at every part of our lives and fixing those up.

 

Love Alissa ❤

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290017/
(2) https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2017/3831972/