Gut Feelings: You Should Listen To Them

Want to spend fewer days sick this year? Lose weight? Have more energy? Be more productive? Then the first thing you need to do is make sure you are looking after your gut health, which can affect everything from your mood to your performance. Emily Schofield explains.

BEING THE New Year, it is the time to set goals for the year ahead with many of my clients. Working with corporate clients, optimal energy levels and productivity are a big focus. And sometimes it can be down to your hormones.

Upon completing hormone assessments with clients over the last year, I have found that most individuals’ gut health is far from optimal. It is very often underestimated how big a role the gut plays in achieving goals such as weight loss, improved energy levels and immune function, mood regulation and several more.

Gut health has become a notable topic recently, with some great research showing how much gut health actually affects our day to day life. The gut has many functions in the body; it houses 70 per cent of our immune system and also provides a protective barrier to toxins or nutrients that don’t belong in the bloodstream.

If you pinch the skin of your eyelid, you will have an idea of how thin the lining of the gut is. This lining helps regulate what can be let through into the bloodstream and what needs to be kept out. However, elements of everyday life can damage this lining and lead to a loss of good bacteria in the gut, which can result in the gut becoming leaky and overly permeable. Things like stress, poor diet, antibiotics, NSAIDS, the pill and some medications down-regulate the permeability of the gut and allow bad pathogens into the bloodstream, triggering an inflammatory response.

So where does all of this lead us? Having a leaky gut can result in:

  • Mood imbalances
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Immune system imbalances
  • Poor quality of sleep
  • Food allergies
  • Weight gain

The gut is now referred to as the second brain, and I find that most people who have an inflammatory diet or are eating something they are intolerant to are not happy or feeling their best.

Our gut health is hugely influenced by our food choices. Poor food choices such as sugar and trans fats lead to inflammation. When these foods are consumed regularly, inflammation becomes chronic. When you have your immune system constantly switched on through poor dietary habits, stress and toxic exposure, you can become allergic or intolerant to the foods you are eating. What’s more, while you remain in this chronic inflammatory state you can’t recover well from sickness or injury. All colds, types of flu and allergic responses are rooted in your gut.

Here are some things you can to do improve your gut health:

  1. Take probiotics. Probiotics restore life to your intestinal tract. They play an essential role in immune modulation, control unfriendly bacteria in the gut, nutrient absorption, metabolism and hormonal regulation.
  2. Eat resistant starch. There are certain bacteria in your gut that can only feed off resistant starches. If you are eating a low carbohydrate diet, it is important to still include resistant starch, such as sweet potato or small amounts of brown rice.
  3. Avoid foods you don’t tolerate well. If something gives you gut symptoms such as bloating, distention, abdominal discomfort, gas or GI pain it’s time to eliminate it from your diet. The most common things that people are intolerant to include gluten, dairy, soy, peanuts, prawns, shellfish and whey protein.
  4. Take fish oil – the omega 3 it contains decreases inflammation and helps improve gut integrity.
  5. Manage your stress. Stress will make any food intolerance or allergy you may have worse, so reduce your stress levels to decrease your cortisol and inflammation.

Performing and feeling your best comes hand in hand with maintaining good gut health. More and more research is highlighting the link between gut health and mood disorders. Even with your best intentions, if you are not feeling well your performance and energy will suffer.
Make 2016 your most productive year yet by looking after your gut, staying healthy and improving your overall wellbeing.

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Emily Schofield

Emily Schofield is an Exercise Scientist, having completed a Bachelor’s degree in Sport and Exercise Science. She is a Personal Trainer at Ultimate Perfomance in Sydney