You probably have heard that gut health is important to overall health but in recent years, we have learned more about how our gut health can influence specific health conditions. Understanding how gut health works can be daunting, so in this blog post we’re chatting about how gut health relates to mental health, immunity, and skin, and breaking down the signs of gut health problems and some foods you can include in your daily routine for a happy, healthy gut.
The ‘Brain-Gut Connection’
We’ve all had a ‘gut wrenching’ feeling and believe it or not, that phrase wasn’t pulled out of thin air. Our guts have shown to be sensitive to emotions such as anxiety, anger, sadness and joy, and our brains react to signals from our stomach. This is known as the brain-gut-microbiome axis(1) or the ‘brain-gut connection,’ wherein the brain has a direct effect on the gut and vice versa.
The chemical messages that pass between the brain and the gut can be affected by the microbiome and the bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live in the gut can be beneficial, harmless, or harmful. In fact, the brain and the gut have such an intimate relationship that poor gut health can be the cause or the product of many mental health conditions(2) such as anxiety, stress, and depression.
Are gut health and immunity related?
Did you know that over 70 percent of our body’s immune system resides in the gut? Additionally, roughly 100 trillion live microorganisms live within the gut and protect the body from infection, promote normal GI function, and regulate metabolism and the mucosal immune system.(3)
Thankfully, prebiotics fuel the growth of good bacteria in our gut, especially bifidobacteria and lactobacilli(4). This increased presence of this beneficial bacteria can help inhibit the growth of other pathogenic bacteria. This is important as clinical research shows that imbalances in the microbiota may disrupt the normal functioning of our immune responses. Our prebiotic dietary fiber Arabinoxylan is clinically proven to promote the growth of bifidobacteria and help support a healthy immune system.
Gut health - it’s literally skin-deep
We’ve discussed how gut health plays vital roles in both mental health and immunity, but can it really be tied to our skin health and appearance too? Long answer, short? Absolutely.
Anything that irritates the lining of your gut can cause it to become inflamed (i.e. food, alcohol, antibiotics, etc.), sending signals to the body that something bad is happening in the gut. The body responds by ramping up the stress response in order to help fight whatever is going on. Stress is never good on the body and there’s no exception when it comes to the gut and our skin. When gut inflammation and stress occur, the integrity of our skin is impaired, producing less of the naturally occurring antimicrobial peptides it normally makes as a first-line defense. With a weakened defense, skin irritations and even infections can occur, causing further aggravation and inflammation of the skin.(5)
As key as a good skincare routine is, it’s also extremely important to consider what’s going on inside your body. To help support a healthy gut and healthy skin, look at what you eat and drink, what kinds of supplements and medications you’re using, and assess your stress levels.
Signs of gut health problems
At some point in life, everyone will experience some type of digestive problem—from bloating to abdominal pains, heartburn, nausea, vomiting and more. Sometimes these issues can be written off due to lack of sleep, foods that we eat, high stress levels, seasonal illnesses, etc., but when symptoms persist it may be a sign of an underlying gut health problem, which can ultimately take a toll on your entire body.(6)
There are many ways in which an unhealthy gut can present itself—here are some of the most common:
Bloating, gas, diarrhea, blood in the stool, black stool (a sign of bleeding in the gut), severe vomiting, fever, or severe stomach aches are a few direct signs that something is going on in the gut that shouldn’t be.
Unintentional Weight Loss or Changes
Losing or gaining weight unintentionally may be a sign of an unhealthy gut. An imbalanced gut can impair the way that your body absorbs nutrients, regulates blood sugar, and stores fat.
As we discussed previously, there are various skin conditions that can be related to an unhealthy gut. The gut microbiome influences skin through complex immune mechanisms, so if you find yourself with a skin condition popping up out of nowhere, the chances that it's related to an unhealthy gut are quite high.
Another major sign of an unhealthy gut is insomnia (or poor sleep in general), which leads to chronic fatigue. The majority of our serotonin, a hormone that affects mood and sleep, is produced in the gut7 so if you’re suffering from chronic fatigue, it’s time to get your gut healthy again.
We already know that gut health plays a vital role in our mental health, thanks to the ‘brain-gut connection’ we chatted about earlier. Certain hormones made in the gut control the signaling between our guts and brains (and vice versa) and if this hormonal balance is thrown off, it can contribute to anxiety, and other mood disorders.
Digging into gut healthy foods
While eating nutritious food is important for overall gut health, it’s not what you eat but rather what your gut absorbs that’s important. When implemented correctly, prebiotics help maintain gut health and can provide support and relief for many of the issues we’ve discussed in this post.
Looking to incorporate some new gut healthy foods into your daily routine? Try foods like fermented vegetables, nuts, green bananas, asparagus, and beans or check out some of our other suggestions for prebiotic foods.
Additionally, consuming prebiotic-rich beverages such as Inner Life! Prebiotic Drink Mix on a regular basis promotes the growth of good bacteria in your gut. One of the benefits of our prebiotic drink mix is that it doesn’t cause the gut discomfort, excess gas and bloating we’ve come to associate with other fiber supplements. Our goal is to make meeting your daily prebiotic needs easy because each serving of our prebiotic drink mix provides 3.8g of the clinically-proven prebiotic fiber, Arabinoxylan. Additionally, we make our prebiotic drink mix with only the best ingredients—meaning no artificial sweeteners, colors, or preservatives or gluten.