The Modern Woman’s Guide To Gut Health.

Gut health is one of the internet’s latest obsession – but how much do we actually know about it?

Photograph by Alessa Winter.

Understanding and being in tune with your health & wellbeing is one of the best services you could provide for your body, and any modern go-getting woman will know that when our body feels off balance it can throw our whole routines off-kilter. The latest focal point when it comes to health is the importance and function of the gut. So what is it, what does it do and more importantly why should you care?

The gut accounts for two-thirds of our immune system – that which is designed to protect us against viruses and harmful bacteria – so is pretty imperative when it comes to assessing our overall health and bodily functions. It produces over 20 unique hormones, extracts energy from the food we eat and can improve overall physical and mental health when correctly balanced. But what exactly is the gut? The gut – or more scientifically known, gastrointestinal tract- starts from the moment you put food in your mouth, all the way until you’re ready to release it in the form of bodily waste and is filled with trillions of healthy bacteria (microbiome).

At the most basic level, it is comprised of the oesophagus (the tube that connects your mouth to your small intestine), the stomach, the small intestine, large intestine – made up of various colons: ascending, transverse and sigmoid – and ends at the rectum.

The enzymes from our saliva break down the nutrients and energy that food is made up of, is filtered in the stomach and once in the small intestine (as well as in other places – but primarily there) extracts the good stuff we need. The bacteria in the large intestine is where the last of the nutrients from our food is broken down – and also where the more toxic and undigestible bits of food such as fibre is sent on its way to the rectum. It’s a process that is happening at a molecular level, every day, for the majority of our lives (!) without getting nearly as much credit as it deserves!

Having a good relationship and understanding of the gut can probably help to clear up a lot of those ‘awkward’ questions we have about our bodies. You’ll soon realise that a lot of those queries that start with ‘am I normal’ will usually result in a yes! However, with the way our eating habits have been normalised in society it is difficult to really know if your body is functioning at its optimum level. The most common indicators that something isn’t sitting right in your gut are: bloating, excessive gas, diarrhoea, constipation, stomach ache or nausea, among others. A lot of these symptoms you would’ve experienced at one point in your existence and usually, they have no problem clearing up on their own after a short while, however, if it’s a chronic issue you may need medical diagnosis and treatment.

To promote a healthy gut a well-balanced diet that is full of fibre and rich in fruits and vegetables, along with regular exercise and a decent sleep schedule should do the trick. There are lots of fibre-rich foods such as cherries, mangoes, walnuts, broccoli and leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach that are proven to promote good gut function. It’s also best to cut down on red meat and dairy, as well as avoiding excessive alcohol and smoking as like with other parts of your body they can have an adverse effect on the healthy bacteria in your gut.

Let this article be the catalyst for you to look further into the gut and the important role it plays in keeping you healthy. We love this post by @beingbrigid which gives you the ingredients for a healthy and happy gut.

The gut is a very complex system that is unique to us all – so one solution for someone might not be the right one for you – it’s very important that with any health-related issues you seek professional advice before making any changes to your diet.

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