This post was written by Angela LaSalle, MD, ABFM, ABoIM, medical director, Parkview Employer Solutions, PPG – Integrative Medicine.
Your gut is at the very core of your health and affects so many different parts of your body. Although all of us will have an episode of digestive upset in our lifetime, what happens when the gut is chronically disrupted? Let’s learn more about gut health and some steps you can take to ensure a happy, healthy GI tract.
Why is a healthy gut important?
People with a healthy gut have a good balance of bacteria in their GI tracts. These bacteria, or microbes, get rid of toxins, help you fight viruses and bacteria, give you energy from food and even produce serotonin, a brain chemical that boosts your mood.
The health of your gut influences nearly every other part of your body—from your skin to your sleep cycle to your heart to your immune system and more. An unhealthy gut can result in auto-immune problems, such as thyroid issues and rheumatoid arthritis, and an increased risk of chronic diseases, including cancer, type 2 diabetes and obesity.
What are some common signs of poor gut health?
When there isn’t enough good bacteria in your gut, bad bacteria can grow, causing an imbalance that can lead to poor gut health. You may experience:
- Digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn or bloating
- Sleep issues
- Skin rashes and allergies
- Unexplained fatigue
- Unexplained weight gain or weight loss
If you pass any blood or dark tarry stools, have pain accompanied by nausea, vomiting and fever, or if you have any milder symptoms lasting more than one week, contact your healthcare provider.
How can you keep your gut healthy?
Having a good mix of bacteria in your gut is critical for your health, nutrition and to maintain a healthy weight. Here are some ways to keep your GI tract running smoothly:
- After taking antibiotics, take a doctor-recommended probiotic.
- Drink water instead of carbonated and acidic beverages like coffee or tea to help reduce reflux and constipation.
- Eat plenty of vegetables, grains and fruits to feed the good bacteria in your gut and help keep your bowels moving.
- Avoid sugar, processed foods, fried foods and alcohol.
- Avoid late-night eating and large meals.
- Choose your foods wisely by paying attention to those that cause symptoms, such as dairy and sugar, and discuss any patterns with your healthcare provider.
A healthy body equals a healthy workforce
Parkview Employer Solutions partners with area businesses, delivering innovative services to improve the health and well-being of employees. Available services include Occupational Health, Employee Assistance Programs, Workplace Wellness, Employer Clinics and more.