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Gut health, hormones and weight

Gut health has been given a lot of airtime in recent years and for good reason. The gut-brain connection is significant and whilst there is still a lot more we can learn about the importance of the gut on overall wellbeing, we do know that it's worthy of being looked after properly!

Gut health in a nutshell

Your digestive system contains millions of microbes and they play a pivotal part in breaking down the food we eat and utilising nutrients. The microbiome also produces and stimulate hormones, vitamins and immune cells and is in communication with your brain, known as the gut-brain axis. The gut is now commonly known as our 'second brain', as it contains the same neurons and neurotransmitters as our CNS (central nervous system). Perhaps unsurprisingly there is a close link between the health of the gut microbiome and digestive issues such as IBS, but there is also a close correlation between the gut microbiome and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, plus Type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Gut health and weight management

Research shows that up to 70% of your immune system is found in the gut, which can trigger chronic inflammation if the gut flora is out of whack, which in turn influences weight gain and more serious health conditions. A varied, healthy gut flora - which stems from a varied diet rich in vegetables, fibre, wholegrain and fermented foods - lowers inflammation and helps 'good' bacteria flourish (which in turn keeps 'bad' bacteria and inflammation at bay). The uniqueness of the makeup of each individuals' gut flora can also impact ones' weight. Research shows that obese individuals have a less varied microbiome (even a lack of specific bacteria) compared to those of a lower bodyweight.

Gut health and hormones

Hormonal fluctuations of oestrogen and progesterone has a direct impact on your gut health, and vice versa. This is why discomforts like bloating and constipation occurs during the luteal phase (around and after ovulation) of the menstrual cycle. A collection of bacteria called estrobolome in the gut helps metabolise oestrogen and ensures it is available in optimum levels. Gut issues can negatively impact this fine tuned balance. When the liver metabolises oestrogen and excess oestrogen is excreted, it will be flushed out through the gut. However, gut issues can also cause oestrogen to be reabsorbed into the blood stream and cause oestrogen dominance. Oestrogen dominance causes weight gain around the middle, heavy periods, PMS and more severe menopause symptoms. In short, keeping your gut in a happy place, equals happy hormones!

How to improve gut health

Gut health starts with a varied, balanced diet, but is also influenced by external factors such as stress, environmental toxins and disrupted sleep. But you can go a long way by focusing on the following:

  • Drink more water! We all know water is good for us, but this post is a good reminder

  • Increase your intake of fruit and vegetables. Adopt an 'Eat the Rainbow' approach and aim for 30 different types of fruits/vegetables over the cause of a week

  • Increase fibre intake. The above will help with that, but also focus on getting more whole grains in your diet

  • Ensure you get Pre- & Probiotics. Pre- and probiotics are found in abundance in fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, apple cider vinegar. Or take a good quality supplement if you need a helping hand.

  • Make sure you chew your food properly, take your time and don't eat 'on the go'

  • Avoid highly processed foods and foods with limited fibre or nutritional value, such as white pasta and white baked goods.

  • Limit or avoid inflammatory foods such as alcohol, coffee, sugar and red meat

  • Foods rich in sugar feed the 'bad' bacteria in the gut and should be limited

Further reading / References:

Why Poop Pills are in Trials as a Treatment for Obesity

The brain gut connection

4 ways to improve gut health naturally

The First Report of Differences in Gut Microbiota Composition between Obese and Normal Weight Iranian Subjects


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