Gut Health Explained
This week we are chatting about gut health and the importance of nurturing it.
As I have mentioned in previous blogs and posts we are passionate about learning and understanding about the powerful connection between beauty and health.
One of my 2020 goals was to really focus on this, share what I learn along the way and step up my game when it comes to gut health.
With a wealth of information out there I thought I would ask an expert a few questions to help clarify the meaning and importance of gut health and its relevance to your skin and overall health.
Today we are taking 5 with Leia from @_nourished.by.nature_
Q1. Can you describe briefly the gut- skin connection?
The health of the gut plays a central role in the wellbeing of both the body and mind. It is widely believed that to strengthen the health of the gut is to strengthen the entire body system. Due to its core role, when this organ is impaired or under-functioning the manifestation of symptoms has a vastly broad range including poor skin, mood imbalances, impaired nutrient absorption and resultant deficiency-related conditions.
Our digestive system is home to a diverse array of pathogens (both good and bad) and play a direct role in the health of our skin. Recent research into the connection of the gut-skin axis has shown that gut bacteria can communicate directly with skin cells and is one of the main regulators in the gut-skin axis.
Q2. How does poor gut health affect the skin?
As mentioned above, one of the main influences of gut-skin axis is the health of the micro biome. Gut bacteria communicate with the skin cells and immune cells by signaling them to down or up regulate inflammation, promote healing and cell renewal, and play an important role in the metabolism and absorption of vital skin nutrients including essential fatty acids, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin E.
Factors such as poor diet, chronic stress (physical, emotional and mental), increase in caffeine, alcohol as well as underlying gastro-intestinal conditions and endocrine imbalances can all contribute to a dysregulation or “dysbiosis” of gut bacteria. In result of this we often see arise chronic inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis and acne.
Conversely, when we support the gut in functioning well, we may expect broad systemic improvement in health, which may be characterised by improved energy levels and mood, clearer and more glowing skin, the absence of gastro intestinal discomfort and even the resolution of weight management difficulties.
Q3. How can you improve your gut health to help improve your skin?
To encourage optimal levels of beneficial bacteria in the bowel my number one tip is to make sure you are consuming a variety of fibre. Both soluble and insoluble fibre act as food for the bacteria and encourages them to proliferate. Picture your bowel as a garden. If the soil of this garden is old, dry and overrun with weeds then it will not produce beautiful new flowers. If the soil is full of nutrients, hydrated and healthy, the new blooms will have space to grow, flourish and produce new flowers.
The soil is the health of your bowel and the flowers are the bacteria. “Feed” the soil and the flowers will grow.
Sources of fibre include: green leafy vegetables, all fruits and vegetables (especially the skins of vegetables), wholegrains such as oats, barley, buckwheat and quinoa as well as flax seeds, psyllium husks, beans, peas and lentils.
Make sure you are keeping hydrated by consuming filtered or even better alkaline water and if you have trouble drinking enough water through the day consider utalising herbal teas. Some suggestions to aid in digestion, gut health and clearer skin include chamomile, burdock root, licorice, green, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cleavers and dandelion root.
Regular movement and exercise can also be a fantastic way to support gut health. With movement comes increased circulation, oxygen flow, blood and nutrients to vital organs. Find a way to move your body each day for at least 30 minutes.
Stress management and mindfulness techniques can play a vital role in supporting the health of our digestion and nervous system. These two systems are connected via the vagus nerve and directly affect one another. The gut is the “second” brain. It is just as sensitive to your thoughts, feelings and emotions as your “main” brain.
The way we deal with stress will look different to each and every body. Find some simple and easy techniques that resonate with you.
Q4. What are some of the top foods recommended to help heal the gut?
As we already mentioned, fibre is number one on the list to encourage gut health. There are many other beautiful foods we can easily use in everyday life to nourish and support a healthy happy gut.
Foods that contain natural “pre” and “pro” biotics are a fantastic way to encourage healthy bacteria levels and also improve our innate immunity and inner resilience. Foods such as artichokes, garlic, cabbage, onions, leeks, kefir, sauerkraut, bananas, chicory root and slippery elm root are great sources of both pre and pro biotics.
Foods rich in essential fatty acids, vitamin D, E, A and zinc such as sustainably caught fish, organic eggs, fresh vegetables (think of a rainbow for every meal), variety of nuts and seeds as well as low inflammatory grains such as buckwheat, quinoa and amaranth.
Consuming easily digestible protein, plant based or from an animal source is important to aid in connective tissue healing of the skin, gut and cellular health. Slow cooking of animal protein such as bone broths, stews, and soups can aid in the absorption of the amino acids and provide gut healthy gelatine and collagen. If opting for plant based sources of protein such as beans, legumes and grains; utilise slow cooking methods can improve digestion and reduce associated symptoms such as bloating and gas occasionally seen with these foods.
Q5. What can be added to your diet / lifestyle to help improve your gut health?
Depending on underlying health conditions, dietary and lifestyle choices, the need for certain nutrients will differ person to person. In cases where food as medicine therapy is restricted or for use in chronic cases, supplementation can provide therapeutic support.
If we remember the analogy of the garden as the gut, it is important to first lay the ground work to encourage growth of bacteria. Nutrients that support this include the amino acid glutamine as well as nutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin A, zinc, essential fatty acids and pre and pro biotic formulas that may also contain additional supplemental fibre sources to encourage bacteria growth.
There are many beautiful herbs that can implemented such as echinacea, cleavers and burdock root but as with all supplements either nutrients or herbs, they should be prescribed by a qualified practitioner as many of these supplements, however natural, can still interfere with certain medications and may not be right for you.
Everyone’s picture of gut health is unique, and is also constantly evolving as it responds to our daily choices of diet and lifestyle. If you are experiencing gastro-intestinal symptoms or skin conditions, it is advised to seek holistic support to encourage a therapeutic approach that can benefit the whole body and mind.
You can follow along and learn more from Leia
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