An upset stomach is enough to ruin a day. There develops a nauseating feeling that lasts from hours to sometimes days. It prevents us from pursuing our day as usual. The sight of food and certain smells may aggravate the issue. Nausea coupled with headache is the slightest discomfort caused due to bad gut health. Ignoring these subtle signs, thinking these were just one-day occurrences, can lead to many serious ailments.
The good news is that if gut ailments aren’t severe enough, you can easily treat them through food and lifestyle changes. With this article, we intend to introduce you to superfoods that can make your ut healthy and enhance nutrient absorption.
Let’s begin exploring and learning ways to better our gut.
The word “gut” refers to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The GI or gastrointestinal tract is a long, muscular tube running from the mouth to the anus. It breaks down food, absorbs nutrients, and eliminates waste.
The gut is home to several communities of microorganisms known as the gut microbiome or gut microbiota. The gut microbiome is essential in digestion, immunity, and overall health. A healthy gut microbiome aids in lowering the risk of multiple chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
An unhealthy gut is one that is imbalanced in terms of its gut microbiota that live in the digestive tract. The imbalance can happen by a number of factors, including diet, stress, and antibiotic use.
When the gut microbiota is imbalanced, it can lead to several health problems, including-
- Digestive issues like constipation, diarrhea, and bloating
- Allergies and food sensitivities
- Skin problems such as acne and eczema
- Several autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis
- Mood disorders such as anxiety and depression
The function of the small intestine is to break down and absorb nutrients into the bloodstream. If our gut is unhealthy, it significantly affects nutrient absorption due to malfunctioning of the small intestine. Below is how an unhealthy gut impacts nutrient absorption-
The small intestine lining has villi, finger-like projections that increase nutrient absorption. Nutrient uptake is limited when damaged or flattened in conditions like celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease.
Impaired Enzyme Production
The gut produces enzymes essential for digesting nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. An unhealthy gut can hinder enzyme production, causing incomplete digestion and reduced nutrient absorption.
The gut microbiota comprises trillions of beneficial bacteria that help with digestion and nutrient absorption. Dysbiosis, an imbalance in the gut microbiota, can occur due to factors like poor diet, stress, antibiotics, or other medications, impairing the gut’s ability to absorb nutrients effectively.
Intestinal permeability, or the “leaky gut,” is a condition where the intestine lining becomes more permeable than normal. This increased permeability allows undigested food particles, toxins, and bacteria to leak into the bloodstream, triggering an immune response and inflammation. Chronic inflammation in the gut can interfere with nutrient absorption.
Certain conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or pancreatic insufficiency, can directly affect nutrient absorption. These disorders may damage the intestinal lining, impair the production of digestive enzymes, or cause problems with bile production, all of which can lead to poor absorption of nutrients.
Absorbing crucial vitamins such as A, B12, D, and K occurs in the gut. However, if the gut is not healthy, it could lead to inadequate absorption of these vitamins.
The human body requires minerals like iron, zinc, and magnesium to function properly. These minerals get into the gut. However, if the gut is not healthy, it may be unable to absorb them effectively. It can lead to deficiencies in these vital minerals, negatively affecting overall health and well-being.
We understand that a malfunctioning gut can cause severe deficiencies and ailments in our body, so it’s crucial to understand how to restore its functioning. Below are a few ways to optimize gut health and help the body absorb nutrients:
Maintaining a healthy gut is crucial, and a balanced diet plays a significant role. Incorporating a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein into your meals is an excellent way to promote gut health. These foods are rich in prebiotics and probiotics, essential for nourishing the gut microbiome. You can support a thriving and healthy gut by prioritizing a diet that includes these beneficial nutrients.
Prebiotics refer to a class of non-digestible food ingredients essential in promoting the growth and proliferation of beneficial bacteria in the gut. These nutrients are abundant in a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and they play a critical role in maintaining optimal gut health.
Some commonly known prebiotics examples include inulin, fructooligosaccharides, and galactooligosaccharides. Here are some prebiotic foods that these-
- Inulin: Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, wheat, and soybeans
- Fructooligosaccharides: Bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, honey, and artichokes
- Galactooligosaccharides: Breast milk, infant formula, and some processed foods such as yogurt, cereals, and bread
Incorporating these prebiotic-rich foods into your diet can help to enhance the balance of gut bacteria, which in turn may lead to several health benefits, such as improved digestion, better immune function, and reduced risk of certain diseases.
Probiotics are live bacteria similar to good ones that naturally live in your gut. They are available in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Probiotics can help to improve gut health in the following manner:
- Reducing inflammation
- Boosting the immune system
- Helping to digest food
- Increasing nutrient absorption
Consuming processed foods can have detrimental effects on your overall health due to their high sugar content, unhealthy fats, and artificial ingredients. These foods can negatively impact your gut health, making it harder for your body to absorb vital nutrients properly.
Common examples of highly processed foods include candy, cookies, cakes, chips, soda, and fast food items. Limiting your intake of these foods and opting for more nutritious options to maintain optimal health is important.
Ensuring that you consume adequate water daily is crucial for maintaining good digestive health and promoting optimal nutrient absorption within your body. It is highly recommendable that you consume at least 8 glasses of water per day to facilitate the smooth operation of your digestive system and aid in transporting essential nutrients throughout your body.
By consciously prioritizing your water intake, you can significantly improve your overall well-being and support your body’s natural processes.
Maintaining a healthy gut is pivotal for overall health and well-being. One effective way to achieve this is through regular exercise. Doing moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes most days a week can promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
It is because doing exercise increases the flow of blood to the gut, which helps to deliver essential nutrients to the cells lining the gut. Keeping your gut healthy can improve digestion, boost your immune system, and lower the risk of various health conditions.
It’s crucial to be aware of stress’s negative impact on your gut health. It’s essential to find healthy alternatives to manage and alleviate stress. Engaging in activities like yoga, meditation, or getting outside to spend time in nature can help reduce stress levels.
When we’re stressed, our body produces stress hormones, which can damage the gut bacteria. Therefore, it’s essential to prioritize our mental well-being and find stress-relieving techniques that work for us.
The importance of ample sleep for a healthy gut is cardinal. Getting enough sleep is critical for a healthy gut. When you don’t get sufficient rest, your body releases more stress hormones, which can harm your gut microbiome. Aiming for 7-8 hours of sleep per night is recommended to ensure optimal gut health.
However, it’s not right to aim for a certain number of hours. One must consider their physical and mental activities and allow the body to destress well.
Sleep plays a critical role in rejuvenating the gut lining and supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria, which are pivotal for a healthy digestive system. Prioritize your sleep to support your overall well-being and gut health.
Incorporating fiber into your diet is essential for maintaining optimal gut health. This nutrient is a fuel source for the beneficial bacteria residing in your gut, which helps keep your digestive system functioning properly.
Some of the best sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. By consuming ample amounts of fiber, you can ensure that your digestive system remains efficient and effective at eliminating waste from the body.
Processed fruits are also like an addiction, which can make us ill in the long term. Consuming processed foods can negatively affect gut health. These foods can make it more challenging for the body to absorb nutrients. The reason is that sugar can increase the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut, causing inflammation and other health issues.
Similarly, processed foods often have unhealthy fats and artificial ingredients that can be detrimental to gut health. Therefore, it is important to limit the intake of these foods and focus on consuming a healthy and balanced diet to maintain optimal gut health.
It is important to note that smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can harm gut health. Smoking, in particular, can damage the lining of the gut, leading to difficulties in absorbing essential nutrients. It can ultimately result in malnourishment and other health-related issues.
Alcohol consumption can also damage the gut lining and disrupt the balance of gut bacteria, leading to digestive issues and other related health concerns. Therefore, one must limit or avoid smoking and alcohol consumption to maintain optimal gut health and overall well-being.
The gut is a pivotal part of our body. Taking care of it not only saves us from inconvenience on a daily basis but also safeguards us from diseases throughout our lives. Therefore, always keep your gut in good health and help it absorb all the essential nutrients that you keep providing the body. Let us know your thoughts about the article, and also comment if there are tips we missed for optimal absorption of nutrients by the gut.