Story by Lizzie Thomson @ MSN
Spring may be showing the first signs of springing, but the betting is that your gut is feeling far from its best – whether you realize it or not.
Stodgy winter food, a tendency towards carbs, lack of fresh fruit and a tendency to live less active lifestyles for what will have been months now could taking its toll.
But if you want to banish the winter blues, then prioritizing a healthy gut is a great place to start. ‘Most people forget that the gut does much more than simply digest your food. Gut health impacts your energy, skin and immune system, your ability to concentrate, sleep, and much more,’ says nutritionist Shona Wilkinson, from nutrition and supplement brand DR.VEGAN.
‘Poor gut health can wreak havoc on so many aspects of your life, many of which people are totally unaware of. If you start taking care of your gut and being mindful about the foods you eat, you should expect better skin, better sleep, better focus, and a healthier immune system.
‘People should have gut health at the forefront of their minds in 2023 – it’s much more important than you think.’
Here, Shona has shared five signs you may need to give your gut a little more TLC and where to start when it comes to making things better…
Five signs of poor gut health:
A healthy gut can act as a detoxifier and fuels the production of collagen, which is very good for the skin, explains Shona.
This is why nutritionists recommend that skin supplements contain probiotics.
She adds: ‘If natural detoxification doesn’t occur in the gut, toxins will be re-absorbed through the gut and pushed out through the skin, and can cause inflammation, redness, and acne.’
Frequent coughs and colds
Our guts and our immune systems are very much intertwined.
‘Your gut regulates immune function through the intestinal epithelial barrier,’ explains Shona.
‘In fact, around 70% of your immune health is driven by your gut – so it’s very important to take good care of it.
‘A healthy gut means a strong immune system and faster immune response – which means you won’t be hit with those nasty colds as often.’
Good sleep requires good levels of melatonin, which initiates the onset of sleep and is converted from serotonin, explains Shona.
She says: ‘Serotonin is produced in the gut and requires amino acids and probiotics for its creation.
‘A healthy gut that can produce lots of serotonin can not only improve your ability to fall asleep, but also the quality of your sleep.’
Bloating and excessive gas
Shona says: ‘Low stomach acid and poor enzyme production can inhibit the breakdown of foods, fibers, sugars, and fats, and allows bacterial fermentation – which creates gas and bloating.’
Certain supplements can help relieve digestive-related bloating, but a change in diet may help, too.
Less focus and concentration
Lots of the chemicals in your brain originate from the gut – a phenomenon known as The Gut-Brain Axis.
So a healthy gut means better brain function.
Shona says: ‘The main chemicals needed for concentration are acetylcholine, dopamine and noradrenaline, which are all produced in the gut before being taken to the brain.
‘If you struggle concentrating, or suffer with a low attention span, you might want to take a look at your gut health.’
How to improve your gut health:
Shona says: ‘For anyone suffering with poor gut health, my top tip is to start consuming both pre and probiotic foods.
‘Prebiotics are often less talked about, but they stimulate the growth of bacteria in the gut – this is good bacteria, or “probiotics”.’
Shona also says supplements can be taken to support the gut – but if you’re looking to increase the number of pre and probiotics in your diet, try eating the following foods:
· Bananas and apples
· Asparagus, artichoke, onions and garlic
· Natural live yoghurt and kefir