You have probably heard someone talk about a ‘gut feeling’ before. They were probably talking about a hunch or idea they had that just felt right. But it turns out that our guts can actually feel in their own way.
Researchers in the past decade or so have started looking into something called the mind-gut connection. They have found that your gut health affects your mental health and vice versa.
This connection can also affect your physical health. From weight changes and beyond, your gut is a good indicator of when something is wrong in your body.
It also means that you can help manage your mental and physical health by managing your gut health. There are a couple of ways you can do this, and they all stem from an understanding of the mind-gut connection.
The Mind-Gut Connection
As the name implies, the mind-gut connection is the way that your gut and your brain interact. For some people, this is a very obvious interaction. Others might not feel it as clearly, but the connection is always there.
We know the connection is always there because there is essentially a two-way street running from your gut to your brain. This is known as the Gut-Brain Axis. A lot of research into this connection is still underway, but the early results are pretty surprising.
It turns out that the bacteria in your gut can affect the chemicals your brain produces and accesses. And, as the two-way connection implies, your brain’s chemical makeup can affect your gut bacteria production. If you adjust one, you adjust the other.
How to Get a Happier Gut
Anyone who has worked on their mental health will tell you that it can be very hard. Tending to your gut health is, thankfully, a little easier to do.
There are a few simple steps you can take that should improve the overall health of your gut. And that, by extension, can help to improve your overall health both mental and physical.
Most of these steps can be implemented without any new supplements or investments. And most of them are tips you have probably read in articles about losing weight, improving your mood, or clearing up your skin. They are, essentially, building block habits that make up the foundation of a healthy lifestyle.
Water is essential to the function of your digestive system. Your body needs water to turn the food you eat into waste. Then, it needs more water to move that waste out of your body.
When you don’t drink enough water, you run the risk of becoming constipated or “backed up.” This can cause a whole host of issues with your overall digestive health.
Avoiding this type of problem is as easy as developing proper hydration habits. Find a water bottle you like and keep it with you at all times. You might also want to try drinking through a straw since studies show that people drink more when they drink through a straw.
You can also set yourself the rule that you always drink water after doing something specific. This could be loading the dishwasher, answering an email, or sending a text—anything really, so long as you do it at least a few times a day and can stick to it. These are called habit chains and are a great way to build a system of healthy behaviors.
Eat Less Sugar and More Fiber
You have probably heard that you need to “eat healthy” to have a healthy gut. The problem is that most of the time, this advice is given without any specific suggestions. This time, though, we’re going to name two specific tips to help balance your daily diet and improve gut health.
The first thing you can do to make your meals healthier is to cut out hidden added sugars. These most often appear in processed foods like boxed or canned meals, premade sauces, and frozen entrees.
If you substitute these processed foods for whole foods—fruits and vegetables, grains, and sauces you make yourself with few ingredients—then you’ll reduce your sugar intake. And if you focus on adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, you’ll also increase the amount of fiber you eat.
Fiber is essential to good gut health. It ensures everything moves along as it should. A happy gut is one where everything is functioning properly.
You have probably heard a lot about probiotics. It’s true that there are a lot of myths out there about what they can and can’t do. Their effect on your gut bacteria, however, is no myth.
There are many strains of probiotics. When it comes to gut health, you’ll want to find a supplement with either Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium. These two strains seem most effective at correcting the bacteria in your gut.
Adjusting the bacteria in your gut might yield small but noticeable results, such as less gas and bloating or fewer cravings. It might also lead to bigger results, such as weight loss (yes, probiotics help with weight loss!) and changes in the food you want to eat. It all depends on the probiotic strains you get and how they affect you.
Your gut health is vital to your overall health. From small health effects like gas to larger issues like your mental health, your gut has a hand in just about everything.
Luckily, there are many small steps you can take to improve your gut health. Getting more water and cutting out unhealthy food are among them. It’s a win-win that these choices also bring in broader benefits.
It might take time, and it might require some trial and error. But putting in the work to improve your gut health is an investment in your whole self. And it is one that you want to make sooner rather than later.