Keeping your body fit and your diet clean may seem straightforward, and most of the information is pretty digestible… but when it comes to your gut and talking about your digestive system, it may seem like a foreign language. Proper digestion and regularity are intertwined with eating healthy and staying active. Plus, a well-functioning digestive tract will ensure that you are getting all the nutrients you possibly can from what you eat. So let’s take a look at what you can do right now to make sure your gut is healthy and happy!
Before that, though, what does a “healthy gut” mean? Your gut is populated with trillions of microbes (most of which are bacteria) and this population of microorganisms is known as your gut biome. The majority of these microbes live in your intestines, in the area of your large intestine known as the cecum. This biome not only helps you digest foods, but assists in breakdown of fibers, regulation of your immune system, and even plays a role in maintaining your mental health. Then there is the issue of good bacteria and bad bacteria. While having a diverse population of good bacteria can assist you in having excellent health, unhealthy habits can lead to a proliferation of bad bacteria. So let’s look at how to minimize that bad bacteria!
- Balance Your Diet
First of all, the most obvious thing you can do to keep your gut in good shape is to eat mostly, if not entirely whole foods. This includes things that we here at Caveman like to promote, like fruits, vegetables, animal protein, and fish. These foods will feed good bacteria in the gut and keep your digestive system running properly. What’s more, you can also eat foods high in probiotics, such as yogurt and bananas, to give these good bacteria a more ideal environment to grow in. Also consider eating a variety of foods to increase the biodiversity of bacteria in your gut biome as a means of boosting your immune system. Knowing this, there are also certain food groups we should avoid eating. This includes highly processed or artificial foods such as fast food, candy, or fried foods. These can actually allow bad bacteria to grow - or worse, it can cause good bacteria to die. Which brings us to our next point:
- Limit Artificial Sweeteners
While limiting sugar in favor of artificial sweeteners may seem good for your overall health, it can actually be just the opposite. Artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, aspartame, and acesulfame K can be toxic to the bacteria in your gut. In fact, one study found that all types of artificial sweeteners cause some level of damage to your microbiome, and can even affect your gut biome enough to cause conditions like diabetes or gluten intolerance. So with that in mind, one of the easiest things you can do to keep your gut healthy is to cut back on those sugar-free sodas and snack bars!
While the connection between exercise and gut health isn’t clear, it is clear that exercise is beneficial for your gut health, as it is for the rest of your body! Regular exercise promotes blood flow throughout the body, but limits blood flow to the gut - which can prove to be beneficial for the gut in this context as it limits cell proliferation and promotes cell death. That in turn drives cell growth within the colon. In fact, one interesting study shows colon cancer patients seem to benefit from exercise on a regular basis due to this phenomenon. Exercise also reduces blood glucose levels and inflammatory cell counts within the gut, which reduce risk of obesity and it’s accompanying health conditions, such as diabetes and coronary artery disease. While the science is still foggy on the connection between a healthy gut biome and regular exercise, exercise is never a bad idea.
In conclusion, the gut is one of the cornerstones of living a healthy lifestyle. So if you take care of your gut, your gut should take care of you. So eat plenty of clean foods and you should be well on your way to fostering a healthy gut biome.