We often hear people saying “trust your gut” and asking, “What does your gut tell you?” but it turns out there’s much more to these metaphors than simply following our instincts.
Research has shown that our gut actually functions like a “second brain” in our overall health and wellbeing, producing 90 percent of the body’s serotonin (the happy hormone), and housing essential nutrients and bacteria that perform integral everyday functions, including digestion and metabolic functions.
In short, a healthy gut is key to a happy and healthy body so it should be your number one priority. Here, we discuss four benefits to looking after your gut health.
A Strong Immune System
If you’re prone to sickness and often feel worn down and lethargic, your gut may be the cause. The gut wall contains around 70 percent of the cells that make up your immune system, so if your gut is in poor health, then so too are these cells — and this throws your immune system entirely out of whack. Studies have found that gut bacteria also play a central part in the development of white blood cells — your body’s front line of defence against infection.
Boosting your immunity can be as simple as upping your fiber intake. Foods and supplements rich in prebiotics are a great way to boost your fiber intake.
A Happy Mind
There’s a reason why your stomach aches when you’re stressed and “drops” when you hear bad news. It turns out that there is a direct link between the enteric nervous system (ENS) in the gut and the central nervous system (CNS) in the brain and spinal cord. This “gut-brain axis” is where the second brain idea comes from.
So it should come as no surprise that gut issues often correlate with higher levels of anxiety, stress, and depression. Mixing poor diets with alcohol and fast-paced lifestyles can produce a toxic concoction that has detrimental effects on gut flora, causing an overgrowth of bad bacteria and an unhealthy gut.
The remedy? A diet rich in both prebiotics and probiotics. Recent studies have shown the positive impact of a healthy gut microbiome (the collective of microorganisms that play a key role in digesting food and absorbing nutrients) on mood, motivation and cognition.
While this positive perk of pre- and probiotics could be a game-changer for some, you should always seek professional help if you’re feeling down, overly stressed or anxious.
Hit (and Maintain) Your Goal Weight
Kick diet fads to the curb and opt for gut-nourishing foods and supplements instead. Think fiber-rich and fermented. A healthy gut allows your body to digest foods efficiently, absorbing essential nutrients, processing fats and proteins, and — uh — getting rid of any excess waste. Prebiotics and probiotics are the cornerstones of a healthy gut microbiome, meaning these processes are carried out more easily and efficiently, shifting any unwanted fats rather than storing them.
Try kick-starting your gut efficiency with apple cider vinegar that contains the mother and fresh-pressed aloe vera juice that is rich in prebiotics. This tonic stimulates digestion, assists with appetite control and weight management, and promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Say goodbye to bloating and hello to feeling confident, refreshed, and energized.
Eczema, acne, dryness, and irritated skin could all be signs of a bacterial imbalance in your microbiota. Consuming natural probiotics from sources such as kombucha, kefir, saurkraut, and kimchi in addition to prebiotics will increase the number of good bacteria in your gut — the type of bacteria needed to help restore your gut to normal balance.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Now to Love.